Lotus Lantern Festival 2012 Foreign Monitoring Program Comments
1. What was the most impressive thing during the festival?
As a foreigner coming from so far, where Buddism has no trace in our culture in any way, experiencing the Buddhist Culture through in such diverse way, such as through art, food, lifestyle, and by meeting monks from all different countries was amazing.
First, the presentation of participants in Dongguk University was one of the most impressing things. Everyone was well prepared and they all wore beautiful costumes. They even have choreographed moves. Hours and hours of practice must have been poured into this huge event. Everything paid off really well.
Second, the parade was really colorful and nice. This is the longest parade I ever went to. But it was time well spent. The lanterns are real nice and the people in the parade are really warm and welcoming. Just thinking that they walked a number of miles is heartwarming. People from different age groups participated in the event, babies, kids, teenagers, adults and even the elderly. It was a nice sight.
Third, the temple is decorated nicely. The lanterns are really colorful. The ceremony that is happening during the whole event was also a nice experience especially for others who wish to understand Korean Buddhism more.
Fourth, the street festival. This is a great activity for families and kids. I also like the street festival because it is a form of experiencing culture . the unique Korean Buddhist culture. In addition, the Buddhist practices from other countries, such as Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Japan, China, Taiwan, Cambodia, etc, were also showcased during the street festival. It made people aware of the existence of these practices.
Fifth, the people. People are really nice and very helpful. Everyone worked hard to make the event successful. Great/ fast cleaning of roads and barricades by the volunteers. It was really commendable. The ladies in red (from the tourism organization) are a great help, especially for foreigners.
Also, the decoration of the temple was amazing- it was transformed into a truly enchanted space. I highly recommend it!
2. Give your thoughts on being a Lotus Lantern Festival foreign monitor?
I thought it was great being a monitor- I felt comfortable at the festival, and felt pressure to think about the festival in ways I never would have. We were given the opportunity to experience the festival from start to finish. We were made aware of the different organizations involved in this endeavor. We were given access to the activities and this is a good exposure. In addition, we understood the festival better and it gave us thorough understanding about organizing big events like this. This is because we were involved in the whole festival proper and at the same time we were given the chance to mingle with foreign visitors/residents to get their insights about the activity.
Congratulations to the whole organizing committee for making such a successful festival. It is not only a religious activity but more importantly it is a great cultural activity for Koreans and foreigners alike. I think it is extremely important to have people monitoring the festival like we did. Its interesting to hear peoples thoughts about Korea and about the festival and learn about their experiences. Also it gives the visitors a feeling that they are thought of and cared for.
I truly felt like a privileged guest to my host beautiful & giving Korea. All the different opportunities to access different events, being guided around and shown where to go, and up close seats to the major event. It was truly an unforgettable weekend.
3. Any suggestion on the Lotus Lantern Festival (LLF)?
The Lotus Lantern Festival has the potential to become an internationally recognized cultural icon of Korea, but currently the marketing is inadequate. Even Seoul locals don’t realize there is such a festival and that it has been running for several years. There needs to be a strong, long-term strategy and plan to promote the LLF both locally and globally. Many promotional activities can be done quickly and cost effectively, for example, listing the LLF on travel websites and getting the foreign monitors to review it, sponsoring well-known travel bloggers to the festival, inviting airlines to feature LLF in their in-flight magazines, displaying lanterns and information in Incheon and Gimpo airports and getting the local businesses around Insadong/Myeondong/Dongdaemun to promote the festival. There are also further opportunities to introduce and foster a better understanding of Buddhism to both local and foreign visitors. For example, free temple tours of Jogye-sa temple in different languages during both days (provide disposable socks!), combining the LLF and temple stay as a package and including a meditative, spiritual aspect to the parade itself. One idea is to turn off all artificial lights and music in the area for a few minutes of darkness and silence while participants light each others’ candles. Some simple steps can be taken to improve the overall LLF experience for the visitors, such as providing detailed directions and programme schedules (could be printed on the lanterns themselves or on disposable caps/fans/tissue packs), LLF ambassadors stationed at various spots, subway exits, Jogye-sa temple, main street to give directions, hand out programmes and answer questions.
One thing though I’d like to mention, is that I wished we had a sort of Korean buddy along, that could be ‘shared’ between-let’s say- 4 foreigners, with whom we could hang out together during the festival, and ask cultural insights when curious about something!
I believe a lot of us have experience that weekend being around that much number of Koreans for the 1st time! Many others have arrived to korea only since a little while ago. Therefore, along with Buddhism culture in korea, I am sure many of us had so many questions, opinions they wanted to share and wanted to hear the perspective of People from the Host country etc..I know I had!
5 Best & 5 Worst
- 5 Best Point -
1. Getting Exposed To Monks / Buddhism: a showcase of different cultures and experiences
2. Hands on experience during the street festival: nice gifts and souvenirs at a very reasonable price
3. Amazing happy atmosphere: Welcoming, warm & joyful atmosphere with happy songs and dances
4. Amazing parade with gigantic and colorful lanterns, and interesting costumes. Attractive décor in the temple
5. Impressive teamwork by the organizers and participants/ Helpful people (especially during clean up and mobilization, performances, etc) / Organized participants (especially during clean up and mobilization, performances, etc)
-5 Worst Points-
1. Not enough publicity about the festival & no idea of the festival schedule and the length of the parade. The parade could feel a little too long.
2. No place to sit and relax especially considering the fact it was a very hot afternoon
3. Language barrier at information booth: more English speaking people at booths needed
4. Some Devoted Korean Christians caused some incidents & were disrespectful towards other Korean Buddhists.
5. Lack of facilities: hard to find rubbish bins and toilets