In South Korea, mud season is a cause for celebration

A longer-than-normal rainy season in South Korea has upped the ante for an annual mud festival, turning the town into 'one giant mudslide.'

Ahn Young-Joon/AP
Tourists with their bodies painted with colored mud stroll at the Boryeong Mud Festival on Daecheon Beach.

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Hailed for its natural cosmetic benefits in such places as Israel’s Dead Sea region, mud has become a cause for celebration among residents and tourists in Boryeong, South Korea.

An annual week-long mud festival at the end of July draws 3 million visitors who cast off their inhibitions to wrestle, slide, paint, and swim in pools of mud. After a prolonged rainy season this year, with three times more rain than normal, participants said the entire city of Boryeong felt like one giant mudslide.

Boryeong’s focus on mud began in 1996, when local scientists declared the mineral content of the area’s highly enriched mud resembled that of costly, mud-based foreign cosmetic products. A domestic cosmetic line, Boryeong Mud, was soon introduced, followed by the first mud festival in 1998 to promote the products.

Some of the festival features include three-story-high mudslides, obstacle courses, and inflatable arenas all filled with sludge trucked in from around the Boryeong area, located about 125 miles south of the capital, Seoul. It is fringed by a strip of white sand stretching just over two miles, and fronted by the Yellow Sea.

Koo Ji-hae, from the south of the country, said she enjoyed the chance to mix with foreign visitors and sample the lauded cosmetic benefits of applying the mud to her skin.

A boon for local business, organizers hope the festival will continue to draw international tourists to become a globally recognized event. For now, the rains have ended, the mud has dried, and tourists have swapped mud pits for the dry, pristine beach.

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