What started as a promotion for a mud-made cosmetic line has become one of South Korea’s most anticipated highlights — the Boryeong Mud Festival.
Each year mud is taken from the Boryeong mud flats and brought to the Daecheon beach area by truck. Millions of people: tourists, working expats, American military personals, and Korean locals alike, are heading south of Seoul to bathe in mud, to say the least.
Running from July 19 to 28 this year, the annual two-week festival has been gaining international recognition since its conception in 1998. Last year roughly 20 tons of Boryeong mud was exported to Dalian, China so that they may hold their own mud festival, according to Arirang News. This year, city officials from Japan and China were sent to the Korean Mud festival to learn more about it.
"We hope to host a mud festival one day in Japan, but for now, we are not familiar with the idea. So we need time to inform people," said Japanese Educational Director, Kazuo Eto on Arirang News.
The festival is often depicted through mudslides and mud wrestling on posters and videos. The actual event is much larger. Among other activities, colored mud body painting, beach play, and military air shows are also on the festive itinerary during the day. At night, tents and stalls are lively as people take to the streets to enjoy food, alcohol, and dancing. There are also live concerts, rooftop parties, artsy cafes, carnival games, and a massive firework show on the beach. Some of the festivities go on until early morning.
"The ads only show the one side of [the festival]. I really enjoy the relaxing on the beach and meeting new people side of it," said Christina Malott from Florida, U.S.A. "It’s like the social barrier weakens when you put on the mud. Everyone becomes friends. Strangers are rubbing mud on strangers."
Much like the Dead Sea mud, Boryeong mud is believed to be very healthy for the skin. It is rich in minerals, and helps removes impurities and toxins when applied. There are stores along the coastline that sell skincare products made from mud. Snack stalls and convenience stores also carry mud cosmetics.
For people thinking of attending the festival, it is best to book lodging accommodations in advance. While many do choose to sleep on the beach, both options —indoors and out— get crowded quickly.