Korean Folk Village in Suwon is a wonderful introduction to Korean folk history and culture. We visited over two years ago when we lived in Seoul, and I was excited to bring Landon back since he’s older and would get more out of it this time. For information on tickets, opening hours, and attractions, here is their website. Because we were coming from our fishing village, south of Suwon, we drove, but there are many ways to get there using public transportation from Seoul. There is even a shuttle bus from the Suwon train station to the folk village!
Twice a day, cultural performances take place in a central stage area. We watched the farmer’s dance and equestrian show, then took a break and headed over to the nobleman’s house for the traditional Korean wedding ceremony. The farmer’s dance costumes include hats with ribbons on top. Somehow, with subtle movements of the head, the dancers are able to make amazing patterns with the ribbons in time to the drum music. Don’t miss their show!
The equestrian act was amazing! They did a variety of stunts from flips around the horses, to archery, to human pyramids on moving horses. These individuals are seriously talented! After the show, Austin was stopped by a group of Korean girls. This has happened before- usually they have some sort of assignment to speak English or ask interview questions. This time, they were raising awareness for an island, Dokdo, which the Japanese claim is theirs, but the Koreans believe belongs to them. They gave us all pins that said, “I (heart) Dokdo” and took our pictures. I’m sure we will be on pro-Korean Dokdo literature somewhere. It was interesting hearing a little bit about it because we had never heard of Dokdo and these girls seemed pretty passionate about it!
The folk village is set in a wooded area on lots of land. The leaves were just starting to change when we were there, so the early fall scene was just gorgeous!
The main attractions of the folk village are a series of little villages that show authentically what life was like back in the Joseon dynasty. There are houses from different areas of Korea, and then many farming implements and other tools. Pictured below is a “treadmill.” When Landon stood on the two forked ends, the log lifted, and then when he got off, the mill slammed back into the ground. It was one of the ways they milled grain back in the day. Who knew that was the original treadmill?
Last time we visited, we did not make it across the little river to the houses on the other side. We found homes built using different materials depending on the area of Korea. For example, the homes on Jeju Island were built using lava rock because Jeju is a volcanic island. There was a big garden area and a gourd tunnel! These gourds were full size, and tied up to ensure that they did not fall on our heads. It was cool to see the elongated, interesting shapes made when the gourds grow against gravity.
Korean traditional marriage ceremonies are steeped in symbolism and meaning. I read a blog about the wedding ceremony, and I was blown away by the intricacies! I only captured a few photos between trying to keep track of our boys, but the groom presents the bride’s family with a goose. This symbolizes harmony and love between husband and wife, because geese mate for life. Bride and groom greet each other with a series of bows. The bride has attendants on each side because she has to sit cross-legged for one of her bows! I loved the colors and traditional costumes of the wedding, but the whole thing was a little dry for Landon, who spent that time digging in the gravel/dirt courtyard. He even got a couple of Korean kids to join in!
It was very easy to tell what Owen’s favorite part of the day was! We found the houses with real animals, and Owen’s face lit up! He wanted to stay in this area all day and watch the animals. His favorite was the donkey. Landon heard a lot of noise coming from the military leader’s house, so we went to go check it out. There was a play on the steps of the house! It was all in Korean, of course, and we came in at the end, so it was kind of difficult to figure out what was going on, but afterwards, the leader sat on a chair in front of the house for pictures, and to oversee the punishment of the visitors. Landon checked out the rudimentary jail and then ventured back to the courtyard to see the paddling bench. Landon was not interested in laying on the bench and receiving punishment, but a nice Korean lady bravely laid down the bench and let Landon (gently) paddle her. One of the many reasons I love Korea. They will do anything to make my kids smile!
In the main courtyard of the folk village, very close to the performance area, were all sorts of traditional games to play. One was jump rope. We tried to teach Landon to jump rope, but he wasn’t quite coordinated enough yet. I was too short to turn the rope for Austin and Landon, so Austin was turning it for Landon and I while I was telling him when to jump. It wasn’t working out- Austin has not had much experience with jump rope and did not have the right technique. Enter this lady- she took the rope from Austin and showed him how to do it. She would not leave until he demonstrated his newly learned proper technique, and then when he did, she jumped right in and started jumping, and had a lot of fun doing it! It was hilarious!
One of the most memorable things from our last trip to Korean folk village was the silk worm lady. This lady sits here all day and teaches people about how silk is made. In the jar are silk worm cocoons (they are white in this photo). She pulls the uber thin little silk threads out of the cocoon, puts them through the wooden apparatus, and ends up with silk thread. Landon was not really that interested at first, but once he realized what the white things were, he went back for another look!
Traveling parenting tip: When going to a big attraction that will take many hours with multiple children, one of which will walk some/most of the way and one that can’t yet walk, but will get antsy in a stroller, bring a baby carrier/backpack of some kind. And a double stroller. We traded off putting Owen in the front pack, stroller, or letting him have stretch breaks on some of the structures. He was remarkably happy throughout, as long as we kept him fed, hydrated, and changed his location every so often. Landon got tired after several hours of running around, and ended up riding in the stroller on our way back out. It would have been much more difficult if we had to cajole him out, but instead, we just offered him the stroller seat and he gladly took it!
Another area we did not explore last time included artisan shops. There were copper smiths, blacksmiths, rug weavers, and all sorts of craftsmen. The blacksmith shops was making actual spoons, which was really cool to see. Another shop was making knives.
Near the entrance/exit of the folk village are a bunch of restaurants, souvenir shops and other stores. We stopped at one that said “free magic trick”. It was a candy counter so we were skeptical about the magic, but very curious. It was honey candy. They took honey, rolled it and stretched in corn starch, and it became honey thread. They formed it into cylinders that looked just like silk worm cocoons. Apparently, it was the candy of royalty on special occasions. While Austin and I were zeroed in on the magic candy making, Landon wandered off to look at souvenirs. It didn’t take us long to find him that time, but a few moments later, while I was taking care of Owen in the baby care room (more on that later), Landon was wandering around the courtyard and one of the mascots came up to him. I think they thought he was lost (although Austin was nearby and watching him) and they starting taking him to the lost kids area. Austin followed them and captured this picture before retrieving his “lost” child.
Like all Korean attractions, there was a nursing/baby care room complete with nursing cubicles, diaper changing stations, filtered water, microwaves, and even cribs for naps! I only saw one baby care room at the front of the village, but it was clean and nice. There are other parts of Korean Folk village that we did not visit this time around. There is a “play village” with a mini amusement park, a folk museum, a world folk museum, and a few other exhibitions. There is so much to see and do!
If you live in Korea or are visiting Korea, you must visit Korean Folk Village at least once. It’s that great. Here are a few tips:
- Pack snacks for the kids- there are a two main food areas on opposite ends of the village, but there is a ton to do in between, and kids get hungry!
- The entire thing is dirt and gravel. Wear appropriate shoes, and maybe even shoes that you’re OK with getting dirty.
- This is an outdoors-based village. Visit on a good weather day.
- Plan on spending a whole day here. There is a lot to do. We did not pay for anything extra and it still took a whole day.
- Bring a stroller/kid moving device if your kids are under 5. There is a ton of walking and the kids will get tired!
- Start at the back and work forward- you’ll miss the crowds and enjoy it so much more!
- Don’t miss the shows- there are several folk villages around Korea. One of the reasons we visited this one specifically was because of the quality of the shows and the marriage ceremony.