The Best Festival in Korea?: The Jinju Lantern Festival

If you’ve been reading for a while, you may know that Korean festivals and I have a rocky relationship. Mainly due to the fact that festivals can be called festivals whilst a) not being a festival and b) having zero relation to the supposed theme of the festival.

It was then with caution but a glimmer of hope that I approached the Jinju Lantern Festival, named by the Korean tourism board as the number 1 festival in all of South Korea – ahead of even the Boryeong Mud Festival.

After an eventful bus ride to Jinju – the police boarded the bus due to suspected ticket fraud from a group of foreigners (turns out they hit the “cancel” button after printing tickets on the Korean booking website, rather than “close”) – Gil Dong and I arrived in the city and breathed a sigh of relief.

A festival. An actual festival with an obvious theme, activities related to the festival, and a rather pretty location to top it all off.

Gil Dong and I had decided not to stay the night in Jinju, and that meant catching the last bus back to Daejeon which unfortunately was at the too-early time of 7.10pm, which resulted in us only briefly being able to see the lanterns lit up at night.

Dragon lantern at the 2012 Jinju Lantern Festival

A beaming lion-slash-dragon hybrid creature thing to greet visitors down by the river.

Even without the night sky as a backdrop, the lanterns were pretty impressive, and we also made time to wander around a fortress in the city, as well as have a brief panic when Gil Dong thought he’d lost his wallet, called up to cancel his cards, only for it to be returned the second he hung up the phone by one of the barristas in Caffe Benne.

Jinju Lantern Festival tunnel

Oh so dramatic!

Faux-wallet-losing antics aside, the festival was exactly what I expected the reputed best festival in Korea to be. Fun, distinctly Korean, and with unique twists – you could walk across the river on makeshift floating walkways to get closer to the lanterns, for example – the Jinju Lantern Festival has restored my faith (but not completely erased my caution) that there are those in Korea who understand the concept of a festival.

A healthy dose of violence to go with the family fun.


A crocodile waiting to devour anyone coming out of the bathroom. Much less embarrassing than getting chomped on the butt by an alligator while in there.


Kids playing on see-saw in Korea

A freakishly high see-saw with no safety rails. Talk about daredevils.


woman lantern Jinju

This woman is blanking me. Whatever, she’s clearly had too much work done on her face anyway. Check out those eyes.


Little Mermaid Korea

Ariel gets a Korean makeover.


Close up of butterfly

The obligatory bug photo to break up the main event.


Bunny lantern

This bunny lantern is the thing that nightmares are made of.


Men working lantern

Manpower at the Jinju Lantern Festival.


Jinju Lantern Festival

Alleyway of wishes at the Jinju Lantern Festival.


Asian dragon lantern

A rather flamboyant dragon twinkling at night.


Dragon lantern in Jinju Lantern Festival

What is this, some kind of dragon gay pride?


Flower lantern Jinju

Flower lantern. I’ll take one of these for every room in my apartment. Which is…one room.


night time

Night time view of the Jinju Lantern Festival.


Giant ladybug lantern

A ladybug with what I assume to be some kind of radioactive glow, due to its size.


Pepper apple

Is this a pepper? Or an apple? A papple? An apper?


Rabbit lanterns Jinju Lantern Festival

More terrifying bunnies. I’m willing to bet anything that their teeth are the size of my arm.


Light waterfall

A waterfall of light at the Jinju Lantern Festival.


So there you have it folks! Now, I want to hear from you. What do you think of the photos here? Does the festival look like your kind of thing? Are there any other festivals in Korea that you rate highly? Let us know in the comments below, or shout out on Facebook or Twitter.

15 Responses to The Best Festival in Korea?: The Jinju Lantern Festival

  1. Jessica Wray says:

    Damnit, I totally wish I made it to that one! I’m pretty sure it was when I went to Geoje Island instead….and that was kind of a fail of a trip haha. Great shots! The night ones are awesome!
    Jessica Wray just posted #OnlyIn: ThailandMy Profile

  2. Nicole says:

    “What is this, some kind of dragon gay pride?”

    I love the photos, but your commentary, as always, is the best thing about this post!

    And yes, that bunny latern is way creepy…
    Nicole just posted Angry at IstanbulMy Profile

  3. You got some great photos! And it doesn’t look like there were too many people! I went to the lantern festival on Cheonggyecheon last weekend and it was bedlam. There was even a queue to get down to see the lanterns! Jinju seems like it’s probably the better place to see some lanterns!
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  4. jill says:

    It looks wonderful!! So sad that I’d missed this.
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  5. ciki says:

    I wanna visit.. lanterns look trippy at night!
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  6. These photos are spectacular! I totally want to see this festival! (much more so than the mud festival) :)
    Harvey (H-Bomb’s Worldwide Karaoke) just posted H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, week 6: Man over New ZealandMy Profile

    • Aww, thanks Harvey! The mud festival…yeah, I let you know my feelings about that on Twitter. This festival was far more my cup of tea, although being slathered in mud and splattering strangers with the stuff was pretty fun, too!

  7. Agness says:

    I have never been to South Korea, but I travelled a lot in China, but I have never seen the festival like this. The Flower lanterns and a ladybird look amazing. The whole scenery is unreal. Will hit the festival once I get to South Korea for sure!
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    • The whole festival was so pretty! If you get to South Korea, make sure you come in May or September/October, which is prime festival time, and it means you’ll avoid the stifling summer heat! The scenery was so beautiful and I’ve fallen in love with rural Korea lately :)

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