The love story of Chunhyang is one of the most, if not, the most famous romantic tale of old Korea. I have the pleasure to explore the very place where this story occurred--Namwon City.
The story of love is known to all Korean people. And due to its popularity, the story is being expressed in various forms of expressions: songs, dances, dramas, movies, performances, beauty contests, among others.
Chunhyang's love is considered timeless by observers. She risked her life for the sake of the value of her love for someone. The risk was that during her time, women were so restricted to the status assigned to them. What she did was considered a taboo according to the thinking of the society in that period.
Based on the understanding and sympathy of Chunhyang's daring love story, the critic and artistic world of Korea started to recreate Chunhyang as a modern character, which they found could be her right time in history.
Therefore, I thought that this brief article should only point that character in various artistic and cultural genres that will be shown and briefly described through words and photos below.
The most common genre that describes the love story of Chunhyang is through movies and television soap operas and dramas.
The first Korean movie of Chunhyang was produced in 1923 called "Chunhyangjeon" (The Tale of Chunhyang). Around that time, over 15 films had been produced and shown dedication to the love story of Chunhyang.
Chunhyangjeon became the subject of dramas and movies. That industry has portrayed Chunhyang as a representation of women in various periods in Korea.
Alternate to dramas and movies, the love story of Chunhyang is being expressed through performances, including musicals, operas, ballets, plays, among various genres.
For example, at the beginning of the 20th century, Chunhyang's tale is being told through a traditional Korean-style opera called 'pansori.'
Pansori was then revised as 'Changgeuk' (the traditional Korean classical opera, which is somewhat similar to Western opera. Also, a 'Chunhyangga' (Chunhyang Song) has also been performed in 'bunchang' style.
Namwon City, the 'city of love,' celebrates its annual festival dedicated to Chunhyang in May.
The Day of Dano in May was the day when Chunhyang and Yi Mongryong believed to have fallen in love with each other. The festival was first started in 1931 and considered to be the first regional festival in Korea.
During the festival, performers promote various cultural features of the locality. Above all, the performances focus on praising Chunhyang's faithful mind and heart to her beloved.
Also, during the festival, the Namwon City organizers hold a Miss Chunhyang Contest. The purpose of the contest is not only to find Chunhyang's beauty today but also "to see today's Chunhyang being born."
"Chunhyangjeon" (Chunhyang's Tale) was told in various versions, and no actual date was identified when it was first written.
However, the basic story is the same among the more than a hundred various books, block books, manuscripts, among the recorded stories about the character.
Chunhyangjeon's story was told long ago and was even translated into Japanese, French, and German languages. The Russian choreographer Michel Fokine made the "L'Epreuve d'Amore" ballet in 1936 based on the French translation.
Based on my source, during the day of Dano in May (5th day of the 5th lunar month), Yi Mongryong, the son of Namwon governor, first laid eyes of Chunhyang playing on a swing in Gwanghallu.
It was "love at first sight," and the two were so attached to each other. But Chunhyang and Mongryong's love was soon challenged as they got physically separated when Governor Yi was transferred to Seoul.
Chunhyang suffered not only because she got separated from Mongryong but also because of the new Namwon governor, Byunhakdo.
Byunhakdo ordered Chunhyang to be his mistress. But when she refused, the governor sent her to jail and was sentenced to death.
Fortunately, Yi Mongryong discovered that sentence the day before. Mongryong was acting as an undercover inspector and visited Namwon. To make the story short, Yi Mongryong appealed to governor Byunhakdo during his birthday and saved Chunhyang.
Then "they lived happily ever after."
If you didn't know (yet), during the Joseon Period, there was a strict caste system in Korea. This system prevented Chunhyang from becoming the wife of Yi Mongryong in the first place as she was only a commoner while Yi was a 'yangban' (family belonging to high social or official status).
Of course, that system is gone now in Korea. Probably we can still see it at this age somewhere in the world. However, we can even see some similarities in various faces in our present respective societies.
You can get to Namwon City from any point in South Korea.
You can take a bus from Dong Seoul Station, Incheon Bus Terminal, or Incheon International Airport and go straight to Namwon City's bus terminal.
Alternately, you can take a train from Seoul Station or Yongsan Station and get off at Namwon Train Station. That easy!
Of course, buses and trains wherever available in the country go to Namwon City.
Namwon City, as a 'city of love,' is not only a popular travel destination but also known for the famous Jirisan National Park.
So, you can expect that Namwon offers various means of places where you can stay comfortably during your visit. Indeed, you can find great hotels, hostels, minbak (house stay), pension houses, condos, B&Bs, among others.
Me? I arrived in the city by express bus from Incheon Integrated Bus terminal at noon. I had my lunch in a restaurant located across Namwon Express Bus Terminal. Then I headed to Gwanghallu to find Chunhyang then to my hotel.
I had a perfect experience when I first arrived at the city--people were accommodating and kind in pointing directions. It's a great sign that people here are also expressing Chunhyang's love not only romantically but also in daily human interactions!
Thanks for reading Chunhyang's love story. I hope you enjoyed it!