Chuseok surely is a huge deal in Korea, filled with family joys and the signature holiday food.
Yet for Seoulites who choose not to visit their family in the countryside, or expats who don’t plan to travel, the holiday leaves them with little to do.
Seoul, however, offers a number of options for those who choose to stay in the city for the holiday, from an expat-oriented film festival to English-language musicals.
This year’s Chuseok break ― Wednesday to Friday ― is unusually and luckily long, as it is followed by the weekend. Here are some of the things you can do in Seoul during the long break, while forgetting about the daily stress of working life.
ChewSock Film Festival
The first edition of ChewSock Film Festival is kicking off on Wednesday, featuring a total of 13 Korean films accompanied by English subtitles. The expat-oriented film festival is aimed at, according to their poster, “bored expats during Chuseok.”
The film festival is a rare opportunity to see Korean films from recent years with English subtitles, as most commercial theaters do not offer them for regular screenings.
The lineup consists of indie, art house and successful commercial films altogether. One of them is Hong Sang-soo’s “Nobody’s Daughter Haewon,” a film about young film student who used to date her married professor. While boasting Hong’s signature repetition and variation technique, the film pays special attention to the universal themes of human loneliness and yearning for intimacy and wish to be remembered.
One of the commercial films included in the lineup is Ryu Seung-wan’s box-office hit blockbuster “The Berlin File.” Starring Ha Jung-woo, Gianna Jun and Ryu Seung-beom, the film tells the story of a North Korean agent (Ha) in Berlin who is betrayed by his country when a clandestine arms deal goes awry and is exposed. The film is one of the most successful box office releases this year.
Other notable films include indie filmmaker Jang Kun-jae’s drama “Sleepless Night,” which features the daily life of a young married couple, as well as their ordinary joys and worries.
Also being screened is filmmaker Jeon Kyu-hwan’s “The Weight,” a grim portrait of a physically disabled mortician who accepts the corpses of those who died without any family or friends to pay for the funeral. Director Jeon won the Queer Lion prize at last year’s Venice International Film Festival for the movie, becoming the first Korean director to win the honor given to the best movie with LGBT themes.
Actor Cho Jae-hyun, who played the protagonist in the film, won the best actor prize at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, Canada, for his performance.
The two-day festival runs from Sept. 18-19 at Art Nine Cinema near Isu Subway Station Exit 7.
For the full lineup and screening schedule of the festival, find the festival’s Facebook page titled “ChewSock Korean Film Festival for Bored Expats.”
Musicals: ‘Avenue Q’ and ‘American Idiot’
Even during the Chuseok break, theater actors and actresses are gracing the stage.
There are currently two English-language musicals happening in Seoul, both of which are being performed during the upcoming Chuseok week.
“Avenue Q” is a hilarious coming-of-age tale highlighting the anxieties and struggles associated with entering adulthood. The musical is famous for its use of Sesame Street-inspired puppets alongside human actors, while delivering its R-rated subject matter ― pornography, racism and homosexuality.
The Tony award-winning musical is being performed for the first time in Seoul, and has been receiving positive reviews. The show is being performed in English with Korean subtitles.
If you are a Green Day fan, this Chuseok break would be a great time to revisit some of their most popular songs including “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “Holiday” and “American Idiot.”
“American Idiot,” an adaptation of the punk rock band’s seventh studio album, is being staged for the first time in Korea.
Green Day’s 2004 studio album enjoyed enormous popularity worldwide, selling over 15 million copies with more than 6 million in the U.S. alone. The album tells the story of three young men and their struggles to make sense of the world and find meaning in their lives post-9/11.
The musical follows the album’s plot, while featuring its famous songs. Like “Avenue Q,” the one-act, sung-through musical is being performed in English with Korean subtitles. Green Day members do not star in the show.
“Avenue Q” will be performed every day throughout the holiday break, at Charlotte Theater in Jamsil, Seoul. Tickets range from 50,000 won to 130,000 won. For more information, call 1577-3363.
“American Idiot” will also be performed throughout the Chuseok holiday season, at Blue Square’s Samsung Electronics Hall in Hannam-dong, Seoul. Tickets range from 60,000 won to 150,000 won. For more information, call 1588-5212.
Home to some of Korea’s most thrilling roller coasters and rides, the Everland Resort and Lotte World, two of Korea’s largest amusement parks, are keeping their doors open during the Chuseok holiday season.
Not only are they open throughout the break, both parks are offering special discounts for foreign residents. Spending the holiday on roller coasters, releasing inhibitions by ramming into cars and munching on cotton candy are all ways for guaranteed fun for all ages.
There will be special coupons available online limited to international visitors and foreign residents, with admission prices listed at discounted rates of up to 60 percent.
Everland Amusement Park and Caribbean Bay, the nation’s largest amusement and water park, will be hosting special Chuseok events until Sept. 22. Admissions during the event are listed at 25,000 won (originally 44,000 won) for Everland and 18,000 won (originally 50,000 won) for Caribbean Bay.
Admission to Lotte World ― the world’s largest indoor theme park ― during the holiday, also running until Sept. 22, is 26,000 won for adults (originally 44,000 won). The Chuseok holiday coupons for Everland and Lotte World are available online at everland.com and lotteworld.com, respectively.
Royal palaces and hanok villages
For those less interested in roller coasters and looking more to experience the traditional side of Chuseok, many of the popular must-visit Seoul landmarks, including some of the city’s ancient palaces, are offering a wide variety of Korean cultural events.
The Korean Folk Village and Namsangol Hanok Village will be hosting holiday folk games and traditional performances from Wednesday to Friday. Seoul’s major palaces Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace and Deoksugung Palace will also be holding special Chuseok holiday programs during the three-day holiday.
Visitors watch “neolttwigi,” a traditional outdoor game, during Chuseok at Namsangol Hanok Village in Seoul. (The Korea Herald)
Visitors will have opportunities to play Korean folk games such as “tuho” (tossing arrows through standing rings) or “yut” (a traditional Korean board game) as well as watching traditional folk performances, such as “neolttwigi,” a traditional outdoor game typically played by Korean women and girls on traditional holidays.
For more information, visit english.visitkorea.or.kr.
By Claire Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)