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[HanCinema's Korea Diaries] "Daegu" June 9th-12th

2016/07/01 | 569 views | Permalink

On a daily basis my main frame of reference for what "looks" like Daegu was bizarrely enough this old Anglican Church, built in 1917 and dedicated to Saint Francis (the guy Pope Francis named himself after). The irony of this being, of course, the fact that an old style Anglican Church is fairly obviously not representative of Daegu in any way but I passed by it all the time in my favored back streets.

Truthfully Daegu is in general not the best tourist destination when it comes to visual representation. The Moon Castle (달성) is apparently very famous but so little of the original structure actually remains it's not really something that can be easily seen. The Moon Castle Park is quite literally a zoo filled with animals with a small (Korean only) museum tucked away to explain the Moon Castle's historical significance during the Japanese Invasion in 1592. Also everyone else calls it Dalseung but I prefer Moon Castle because it sounds cooler.

But there is fun to be had at the Gyeongsanggamnyeong Park (경산감녕공원), a location which has no good English name because Gyeongsangamnyeong is just a word describing a specific kind of government office. Any literal translation would make it sound like a modern facility, not a pseudo-museum. Anyway, every Saturday there's a big old party where you can do stuff like try out wearing traditional Korean clothes. Except in July and August, because it's too hot. Even June was pushing it a little, in all honesty.

The centerpiece of fun Saturdays at the park are performances like this. These are the farm performances (농악) I mentioned in my earlier Geumsan article. Just simple stuff like spinning discs on poles and inviting audience memebers to participate. I have a sneaking suspicion that these tasks are easier than they look but who cares, it looks cool.

But all Korean culture is not in the traditional sense. Modern Korean musical culture has a pretty strong element of middle-aged getting funky and dancing, and this too is a centerpiece of fun Saturday. No one cares if they look foolish just so long as everyone is having a good time.

There are also more elaborate scenes, like the reenactment of the governor doing customs inspections. Why this specific activity was being spotlighted compared to pretty much anything else, I have no idea. But again, these kinds of events are really just an excuse for everyone to march around in traditional Korean uniforms and provide lots and lots of photo opportunities.

As I have frequently mentioned, my strategy for finding events like this is to wander around at random until I stumble into an advertisement, which are almost always written only in Korean. But Koreans love it when foreigners show up at these events and odds are good they will invite you to participate in some form of traditional activity for the sole amusement of the crowd, which might also result in your being given presents. I would suggest trying to sit somewhere obscure and not that close to the main activity area if you do not want to be invited to dance or receive presents

...But if you do want to do those things, or better yet even figure out where these events are happening in the first place, English language options are available. Like this fellow, who runs Free Tour Daegu. Which does exactly what it sounds. It provides free tours of Daegu, in English. Take a look at their website if you want to know more-

The local level is always probably the best place to start when it comes to exploring Korea, because of the whole personal touch. Especially in this weather. Please don't get lost in Daegu right now, you might get heat stroke. it's a big city, after all.

Article by William Schwartz

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