Martial arts festival near at hand in Chungju

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Sept 4, 2012 - 19:50
  • Updated : Sept 4, 2012 - 19:51
UNESCO-sponsored event to feature about 50 programs Sept. 7-13

An international martial arts festival sponsored by UNESCO will kick off a seven-day run in Chungju, North Chungcheong Province, Friday.

The 2012 World Martial Arts Festival is all set to attract Korean and foreign fans and tourists with about 50 interesting programs and events involving ordinary citizens as well as martial arts practitioners.

Chungju is known as the mecca of taekgyeon, a traditional Korean martial art, which is designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Heritage in Korea. Taekgyeon was placed by UNESCO last year on its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Organizers are confident of the event’s success, noting Chungju citizens’ unsparing support for the festival. They note that the UNESCO sponsorship makes the 2012 edition significant at home and abroad.

The highlight of the festival is unquestionably programs of martial arts to be featured by 19 different organizations from 18 countries. 
A demonstration of taekgyeon, a traditional Korean martial art (Chungju City Hall)

One of the main programs is the International Martial Arts Contest expected to display outstanding spectacles through a close competition to be watched by the public. Korean and foreign teams will compete for prizes given by the sports minister and North Chungcheong governor.

Another eye-catcher is the 2012 taekgyeon tournament, which is a mix of matches and entertainment. Traditional Korean performances ― namsadangnori, tightrope walking, pansori and ganggangsullae ― will be staged. Namsadangnori is a performing art that was traditionally done by male wayfaring troupes, while pansori is traditional narrative songs, and ganggangsulla is a 5,000-year-old dance performed by women, first used to bring about a bountiful harvest.

The festival also will stage a contest for martial arts trainees over 17 years old. They will be required to complete a 400 meter test course including the ancient Korean military service exams. The winner will be awarded a gubernatorial prize.

There will be a skill demonstration exclusively for taekwondo fighters, too.

Among notable programs designed for the public is a hall set up by the Chungju-based Korea Taekgyeon Association to give visitors lessons in taekgyeon, Chinese martial art tai chi chuan, and hapkido, which is a mixed martial arts.

“Residents first differed in opinion about the martial arts festival, but later agreed to continue hosting it. We have prepared well thanks to the cooperation of 220,000 citizens,” Chungju Mayor Lee Jong-bae said. “We will take this year’s festival as a springboard to promote Chungju as an international city of martial arts.”

Organizers made new cultural twists this year, with a focus on the identity of the host city.

Among them are an operetta produced by Chungju residents about a tragic love story set on an ancient ferry in the city and a musical adapted from a folktale about Mount Gyemyoung, one of three scenic mountains in Chungju.

Residents in and around the city are welcome to join a talent show to be held as part of the festival on an auxiliary stage near the main venue from Sept. 10-13.

By Chun Sung-woo (