2015 Jeju Fire Festival
Words by Dave Cunning
Shot by Eric Hevesy
In my home country of Canada, purposely-lit forest fires can cost you $1,000,000 in fines and imprisonment. In Jeju, there is an annual festival to light a fire, and the entire island is invited to attend and participate.
The Jeju Fire Festival attracts thousands of Jeju residents and tourists to the Saebyeol Oreum in Jeju City on the first full moon of the lunar calendar to pray for health, prosperity, and good harvest in the new year. During this event, the nearly 520 meters high oreum (small volcano) is lit ablaze – along with the rest of the mountainside. This is done to reenact the traditions of Jeju farmers from long ago, who would set fire to their mountainous grasslands and fields every year at this time to kill harmful bugs, encourage new grass growth for their grazing livestock, and burn away bad luck.
The three day festival is slated to run from March 5-8 (though the event’s dates have been known to change in past years to accommodate unfavorable weather conditions), and includes various activities throughout the weekend for spectators to take part in. Fireworks, concerts, contests, and traditional craft making all help round out the festival’s itinerary, and many food and drink vendors will be on hand as well.
The event is free to attend, and is open to all ages. The site is accessible by car, taxi, or bus. A free shuttle bus from various points on the island to the event is provided — strongly encouraged, as the event causes heavy traffic congestion every year. Spectators are also advised to dress warmly.
For more information, visit buriburi.go.kr