Sunday, May 1, 2011

Should Koreans maintain the Cherry blossom festival?

Watching of cherry blossom was introduced to Korea during Japanese rule. The festivals continued even after the Japanese surrendered in WWII, but have been contentious, and many cherry trees have been destroyed because they were seen as symbols of the occupation. However, there has been considerable confusion about the origin of the cultivated Japanese cherry trees and the differences between them and native Korean trees. Certain trees at Seoul's Gyeongbok Palace were cut down to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Japanese surrender in World War II. Although Cherry blossoms are already indigenous to Korea, Japan had planted trees on sacred and offensive locations in the Palace. Once the offending trees were cut down the festival continued with the indigenous trees. The cherry blossom festival at Gyeongbok Palace is one of a number of such festivals across Korea and is prominently advertised to tourists.

In 1933, the Japanese botanist Koizumi Genichi reported that the Japanese Sakura (Somei Yoshino) originated on Jeju-do island (Quelpaert). In 1916, Ernest Henry Wilson had thought that "Japanese Sakura (Somei Yoshino)" was a crossbreed of the wild species of Japanese Sakura ("Edo higan" and "Oshima zakura"). In 1991, Professor of Tsukuba University Iwasaki Fumio reported that "Japanese Sakura (Somei Yoshino) originated around 1720-1735 by the artificial crossing in Edo (Tokyo)." Recent studies conducted on the comparison of Korean and Japanese cherry blossoms concluded that the two trees can be categorized as distinct species, but the Korean species apparently has not yet been given a scientific name.

- Wikipedia

Recently, I happened to think about the Korean cherry blossom festivals. 

Not only do Koreans enjoy the beautiful cherry blossom, but we also like to take part in lots of events, watch many performances, feel the lively atmosphere in the festivals, I presume, as my friends and I do. Oh, I miss having typical Korean street food in snack stalls..! And I still have a portrait which was painted 15 years ago by a street painter in the Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival. I mean the festival is now more than just a festival - it's very important culture that we enjoy as it is. We think that it's natural to visit a cherry blossom festival in spring - it's kind of a way we celebrate spring coming!

I won't deny that there are some arguments about whether we should maintain these festivals which are considered as the vestige of Japanese colonial rule and it's true that the Japanese government made cherry blossom tree-lined streets in Yeouido and Jinhae. On the other hand, it's also said that there's no problem at all that we're enjoying OUR flowers. Many species of the cherry blossom that are now very popular in Japan originated from Korea unlike it's thought all kinds of them are from Japan. Traditionally, we used the cherry blossom as timber, not as decoration, though.

In my opinion, we should preserve the festivals as we've done. Although they were started not by ourselves, it's already become a part of Korean cultures now. I just hope that it's maintained in the Korean way, not following how Japanese do. To be honest, I have no idea about how the Japanese cherry blossom festivals are, but I assume that they aren't that different from Koreans do since it first began in Japan.

I left Korea just before cherry blossoms were in full bloom, and regretted not having been in Korea at that time. If I'd known that I wouldn't be back to Korea for a few years, I'd have put off going abroad.

I miss Korean cherry blossoms! T_T


  1. aww I want to go to the Cherry Blossom Festival u_u

  2. So do I ;D Is there any Cherry Blossom Festival in Mexico?

  3. Nop, we don't even have Cherry Blossom Trees :(
    I've seen pics of Seoul of these days and OMG! looks totally different u_u , so green and colorful...

  4. Yeah.. I think it's good to travel to Korea in spring :) There are lots of festivals and spring flowers in full bloom...!

  5. Hey K Jin, I just thought you might like this blog:

  6. Thanks, Gisela! You know what I like :) I've just taken a look and read lots of interesting posts :P hehe