Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Nongae Festival 2008

The city of Jinju extends from the banks of the Namgang (gang = river) in the Gyeongsangnam Province. It’s where Nongae, a Korean gisaeng, or female entertainer (similar to a Japanese geisha), threw herself into the waters, tightly clutching a Japanese general during the Imjin Wars (1592), drowning him and ensuring freedom for Koreans through her sacrifice.

The 7th Jinju Nongae Festival was held May 23-25 this year to commemorate Nongae and 70,000 militia men and government troops who died at the Jinjuseong Castle Battle during the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592. The festival featured traditional arts of Jinju such as "Uiambyeolje," Jinju Sword Dance and the Nongae performance re-enacting her patriotic jump into water with a Japanese general.

The audience settled down on a floating stage to get a prime view for the show, in front of Uiam Rock (Righteous Rock). A spectacular show ensued with the re-enactment of the Japanese invasion, the Korean generals' defeat and subsequent 'walk the rock' at gunpoint...from where they jumped into the river and drowned.

The Japanese warriors ready themselves for the invasion

The Fan Dance Performance

As Japanese soldiers celebrate their victory and settle in to enjoy their success, a feeling of despair hung in the air as gun fire (fire works) still stung the senses.

The Battle...

The Korean Generals prepare to sacrifice themselves in

the river while Japanese warriors mock them in the background.

On the battle field the bodies of the brave soldiers lay strewn.

Nongae went on to seduce the Japanese general - a ceremony involving the exchange of drinks and her acceptance of which agreed to his intentions...or so he thought...

Many of the Japanese soldiers tried their luck,

but her charm alone would send them off into the river of doom...

On his embrace she clutches her hands together behind his back and jumps into the river dragging him down with her golden rings.

The river calmly swallows her victims into its dark depths...

Nongae's spirit emerges from the waters

Giving tribute to her spirit

The brave actors...

Getting information on Nongae proved to be quite a challenge...most of it is only available in Korean. English information is limited, but the second Nongae Festival in 2004 was accompanied by a wonderful website available in English, Korean and Japanese!!! Visit the site at for a funky history of the Imjin wars, a description of Nongae (Jinju's mascot) and much more on this famous heroin and her city. A definite MUST SEE is the multimedia hall with an animated war re-enactment as well as English translations of some beautiful songs - quite poetic. The video clips are quite funny - especially with the little bit of Irish dance music in the background at the beginning, but none the less, entertaining and very informative!!! Be sure to click cancel if asked to install the Korean Language pack as it isn't necessary to view the site. The Nongae Relics tour allows you to pinpoint the surrounding attractions on a funky interactive map, while the Nongae Specialities section gives you an idea of the local cuisine and delicatessen...check out the 'Clean food' one...hiehie....

You could also look at an article on Jinju, and what it has to offer, at

Well, all in all, it was highly entertaining and informative to be part of the Nongae Festival proceedings...a definite must do if you happen to be in Jinju at the end of May.


PS - got quite a few video clips to add...just some technical difficulties in doing so...will update as soon as possible!!!

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