I’ve always had mixed feelings about folk villages. On the one side, I’m really curious about other cultures, especially the minority cultures within the Asian countries that I visit. On the other side, you can’t escape the feeling that what those folk villages do is reduce the culture into the shallowest tourist-oriented stereotypes employing local low-status culturally stereotypical employees to play their parts in a tourism money-making amusement park.

As examples, you may consider the China Folk Cultural Village in Shenzhen, the Meinong Hakka folk village in southern Taiwan, or even the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village near Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan. While they’ve all exposed me to things I wasn’t previously familiar with about the China minorities, the wonderful history and arts of the Hakka people and the diversity and richness of the Taiwanese aborigines, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat sad and a bit uncomfortable visiting those places. Not only have we oppressed those cultures all these years, to make it worse – we take the little that’s left, we cover it with the grand colors of the title "culture", charge a hefty price at the entrance and then call it "cultural conservation".

 

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But, still, there are lots of positives, even within the mentioned parks above. I must admit that I really enjoyed the Taiwan Storyland in Taipei, I thought that Taiwan’s National Center for Traditional Arts in Ilan was great, and I enjoy the occasional folk village visit – like the Taichung Folk Park or the watertowns just outside Shanghai (Qibao & Xitang) or Hangzhou (Xixi National Wetland Park).

 

The reason for this long introduction is to prep you for my visit to the Namsan Hanok Traditional Folks Village in Seoul meant to conserve and display "Korean Culture". Generally, I would say this folk village falls under my more positive rather than negative folk village experiences.  It’s run by the government, it’s free and it tries to engage people hands-on with some of what the government perceives are the highlights of the Korean cultural experience. Throughout Seoul, even at the airport, you see government booths inviting tourists for Korea tea-sipping ceremonies, mask and puppet making and – how can we not – trying out the wonderfully colorful and esthetically pleasing traditional Korean clothing.

 

So, at this folk village, you can play some traditional Korean games…

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Learn some Korean drumming…

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Wear some Korean traditional clothing…

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Make Korean masks…

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Build Korean kites…

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And generally wonder around authentic Korea residential buildings that have been moved from their original locations into this park…

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It’s not very big, perhaps two hours would be enough, a bit more if you’re really looking to engage in the activities, but it’s very nicely done. I’d strongly recommend stopping by for a visit before heading to the near by Seoul N Tower (or in 2008).

 

If you’re in need of a map to get a sense of the campus:

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More on the Namsan Hanok Traditional Folk Village:



Tags: culture village; folk village; korean clothing; korean culture; korean games; namsan hanok; seoul; seoul n tower; traditional folks;


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