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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

The Jeongwol Daeboreum Festival Finally Returned to Ulsan

During the month of February the fires were finally lit across the city of Ulsan for the first time in nearly 3 years. Since the pandemic hit, cultural festivals like this were put on hold for fear a possible outbreak. It was a difficult time for those wishing to celebrate this age-old tradition and for those who love a good bonfire.

What is the Daeboreum?

This festival dates back to about the Three-Kindoms period in Korea and is usually held on the 15th day of the lunar year or on the first full moon of the lunar new year. This past year it was held on the 5th of February at various locations around the city.

Typically, each area in Ulsan builds a Daljib (달집) which roughly translates to “moon house” and even has a little door on it. They are usually piled high with bamboo, pine branches and straw. This also means that the entire daljib burns extremely fast.

In the past, people would play 쥐불놀이 (jwibulnori) where people would swing cans of fire and coals around on strings but due to several injuries, this game has slowly been phased out. However, you may still find places that do in in more rural parts of Ulsan.

Usually, the daljib is the main attraction but typically there will be events that start throughout the day and then finish in the evening with the burning of the daljib.

Where does this take place in Ulsan?

Usually, these festivals are organized by each district government office. So that means you will find festivals in each part of the city. Usually, the main one will be at Ilsan Beach and it will have the Mayor of Ulsan and other city officials in attendance.

However, other areas of the city will have their own festivals. This year,  the Ulsan Taehwa River National Garden hosted the festival for the Namgu District. Also larger temples like Tongdosa and Baekyeongsa have held the traditional daeboreum festival as well. Simply put, there is not just one daeboreum event but many across the city of Ulsan.


What do people do at the Daeboreum?

Typically, they head out to the daljib sites and partake in various cultural activities. Traditionalists will drink 귀밝이술 (gwibalgisul) which translates to “ear-cleaning wine” and it is supposed to sharpen your ears so that you only hear “good things” all year round. Also people will eat mixed nuts and Yakbap (약밥), a snack made from rice, nuts, and dried fruit.

Around Ulsan, you will find different places having cultural performances with dancing and different activities. Like most festivals around the city, there will be some food trucks and different vendors selling stuff for the kids.

The main event is always the lighting of the daljib on fire is called 달집태우기 (daljiptaeugi). This is where many people gather and you will often see people through little packages into the fire hoping for good luck in the coming year. Do be aware that your clothes can get damaged when the dajib goes up and in flames as embers will typically get blown over the crowd and can land on you.

As always, you can check the Ulsan Online facebook page and find out when next year’s festival is going to happen.