By Han Eun-jung
More celebrated here than the Western new year is the traditional Korean new year, the first day of the lunar calendar year that falls in February.
This, however, doesn't stop many Koreans from welcoming the first day of the Gregorian Calendar's new year, which is this coming Monday.
The people of New York City either flock to, or else tune in on the television to see, the fall of an enormous shimmering crystal ball and crowds in Sydney, Australia or Rio de Janeiro, Brazil watch fireworks ushering in the New Year, Koreans hold sunrise festivals.
Every year Koreans make wishes as they watch the sun go up on the first day of the year with their friends and families.
And in a country famous for its postcard scenery, its only natural that people would head to the coast or mountains where they can appreciate sunrise at its fullest.
The following is a listing of few of the most famous and popular sunrise festivals.
The eastern coastal city of Samchok, Kangwon Province, is a spot people rush to to bid farewell to the old year and welome the new.
After an of pop concerts leading to the year-end countdown at midnight, festival goers can appreciate fireworks and traditional Korean music performances all through the early morning at the Pichijogak Park.
While the sun is rising and moments afterward,, people fly balloons provided by the city as they make new year's wishes and resolutions. For more information call (033) 570-3842 or visit Open the link
Other locations along the East Sea are readying for sunrise celebrations.
Kangwon Province is famous for several other festivals, including the annual Kyongpo Sunrise Festival that is held on Kyongpo Beach in Tonghae, and last but not least the ever popular New Year's celeration in Chongdongjin.
Festivities at Kyongpo Beach will start at 10 p.m. and lead to late night karaoke and K-pop performances as well as a famous annual swimming competition that is held in the early morning. For more information call (033) 640-5422.
The city of Tonghae, with the slogan "Hope 2007", will be welcoming tourists to watch the sunrise. Every year 33 firecrackers are lit 10 seconds before the clock strikes 12 o'clock, and festivalgoers take part in the countdown. One of the events that draws many festivalgoers is the spectacular fireworks that continue until sunrise. For more information, visit Open the link
To catch the first rays of the new year sun, Chongdongjin, a small port located in the city of Kangrung, is a great place to go. Chongdongjin Station, which became famous after it was featured in the 1996 hit SBS drama "Sandglass
" (Morye Sigye), is a popular gathering spot to watch the sunrise.
Situated by the station is the world's largest hourglass, with a radius of 3.2 meters it contains 8 tons of sand. It takes an entire year for the sand in the top bulb to flow through the tube into the bottom bulb. The turning of the landmark hourglass is the biggest attraction next to the sunrise at the festival. For more information call (031) 506-0500 or visit Open the link
In the southern port city of Pusan, sunrise festivals are held on the sandy beaches of Haeundae and Tataepo. Concerts and parades proceed all through the night up until sunrise. For information, call (051) 220-4065 or visit Open the link
Other popular places for sunrise festivals are the mountains. If you consider yourself to be more of a mountain person, the breathtaking scenery of Mt. Taebak is not to be missed.
Hike up to Mt. Taebak's Hwangji Lake for New Year's Eve and take part in a lantern hanging event. For those who want to enjoy early morning mountain trekking, take part in one of the hikes organized by the city of Taebak and find yourself by the lakeshore right in time for the sunrise. For more information, call (033) 550-2379
But you don't have to travel far to enjoy a sunrise festival.
A 30-minute hike will take you to the peak of Mt. Acha, the first place in Seoul to see the sun. The 287-meter mountain in Kwangji-gu, eastern Seoul, offers festival-goers a view of the Han River and a good part of Seoul city.
A performance featuring electronic violinists and traditional Korean musicians takes place after the sun rises. Call (02) 450-1114 or visit Open the link
District offices in Seoul are readying for New Year's celebrations on the peaks of other mountains in and around the capital city such as Mt. Unbong in Songdong-gu, Mt. Umyon in Socho-gu and Mt. Tobong-gu.
Watching the sun go up from another one of Seoul's landmarks, the Han River, is also a special way to celebrate the New Year. Han River cruise boats depart at the Youido docks for an hour and a half long ride in time for the sunrise. Call (02) 3271-6900 for more information.
N Seoul Tower, formerly known as Namsan Tower, opens its doors at 6 a.m. on New Year's Day. There is a 7,000 won fee for the elevator that will take visitors who wish to watch the sunrise from the the top of the tower. For more information, call (02) 775-5672 or visit Open the link
The 63 Building in Youido, western Seoul is also offers a spectacular view of the sunrise and the city. Admission fee is 5,000 won and includes a free cup of coffee or green tea. For more information, call (02) 789-5663 or visit Open the link