Saturday, July 14, 2012

Boryeong Mud Festival Begins

Over the last twenty years, many towns and cities in Korea have rushed to market themselves based on some unique aspect of their local culture or produce. But for the city of Boryeong, whose slogan prior to 1996 was "Boryeong", officials struggled with the reality that their town – which lies outside Seoul – had no unique selling points, or indeed selling points of any kind.

But when a chance comment was made at a local meeting that all the people of the city had "was the dirt beneath our feet", a radical idea was formed – Boryeong would become famous for its mud. A range of cosmetics was produced using mud from Boryeong's mud flats, and scientists were found who were willing to support the idea that the local dirt had "far-infrared factors good for the human body". They also discovered the mud was high in Germanium – a lustrous, hard, grayish-white mettalloid which does not present a human health hazard when used as a nutritional supplement as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration claim, and is not irritating to the eyes, skin, lungs and throat.

While it has long been known that Korean earth is superior to the dirt of other countries, which is why Korea does not suffer from earthquakes like those in Japan, local officials still thought that Broyeong's mud needed to be promoted further in order to encourage the sale of its mud products and ensure that when people thought of dirt, they thought of Boryeong.

So in the summer of 1998 residents spent time transporting the dirt from the Boryeong mud flats to nearby Daecheon Beach – a shell-powdered sandy beach unique to the area and designated as a place of great scenic beauty - and once it was dumped there they spent a weekend throwing mud at each other, partly as a publicity stunt and partly just to get out of Boryeong for a couple of days.

From these small beginnings the Boryeong Mud Festival was born, and it quickly grew in popularity by attracting dirty and smelly foreigners living in Korea who can spend a day wallowing in their native environment. While organizers are careful to show that participants are mainly non-Koreans in their publicity materials, some domestic residents have been known to take part under the influence of their foreign friends. Because of the growing number of foreigners in Korea the Festival has had to expand to cover a period of eleven days.

In 2009, 230 children suffered skin inflammations at the festival but officials insisted the mud was perfectly safe and it may have been a reaction to exposure to foreigners.

The therapeutic value of throwing mud at each other is now well known, with many visitors saying that while they enjoy throwing mud at each other virtually on the Internet during the rest of the year, there is no substitute for spending a day doing it for real in Boryeong.

Related Links
Biggest-Ever Mud Festival Opens This Week in Boryeong
The 15th Boryeong Mud Festival
Boryeong Mud Festival
Boryeong Shrugs Off Mud Contamination
Mud Raves Make Boryeong Mud Fest a Hit with Foreigners
Highly Localized Earthquakes Plague Korean Buildings

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