Today we will visit two traditional villages of South Korea which are Hahoe and Yangdong inscribed on the World Heritage List since 2010, with the promise of a real return to the past where we could finally tame the “real Korean culture” , perhaps to better appropriate it.
1- The traditional Hahoe village in Andong
Hahoe Folk Village in Andong , South Korea , is a traditional village that has preserved Joseon architecture , traditions, ancient books, and Hahoetal masks .
This village is located on the Hwachon, which is a tributary of the Nakdong . To the north is the Buyongdae cliff, to the south is Mount Namsan. The village is organized according to the geomantic principles of pungsu , and therefore has a shape of a lotus flower .
The village is a valuable part of Korean culture because it preserves Joseon period-style architecture, folk traditions, valuable books, and an old tradition of clan-based villages. It is listed by the South Korean government with UNESCO as a World Heritage Site with Yangdong Folk Village in 2010 and attract around 1 million visitors every year.
This village, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was visited by Queen Elizabeth II in 1999. It is best known for its traditional houses with tiled or thatched roofs. It offers an impressive landscape since it is surrounded by the Nakdong River, the magnificent Buyongdae Cliff and fine sandy beaches. It is possible to take a boat to the cliff to enjoy a panoramic view of the village.
Founded in the 14th-15th century, Hahoe is one of the most representative historic clan village in South Korea, together with Yangdong. The settlement include residences of head families and clan members, pavilions, Confucian academies and study pavilions that reflect the aristocratic Confuncian culture of the early Joseon. Within the village, six houses out of 124 have been designated as National Treasures. 
To the north of the village is Buyongdae Cliff while Mt. Namsan lies to the south. The village is organized around the geomantic guidelines of pungsu (Korean feng shui) and so the village has the shape of a lotus flower or two interlocking comma shapes.See also Discover Volcanic Island and Jeju Tunnels
The Ryu (or Yu in some transcriptions) clan of Pungsan established the Hahoe Folk Village in the 15th century during the Joseon Dynasty and has been a one-clan community since that time. The village is notable because it has preserved many of its original structures, such as the village Confucian school and other buildings, and maintains folk arts such as the Hahoe Mask Dance Drama (‘Byeonlsin-gut’) which is a shamanist rite honoring the communal spirits of the village.
The village today is divided into Namchon (South Village) and Pukchon (North Village) with the main branch of the Pungsan Ryu clan, the Gyeomampa, in the Namchon side and the secondary branch, the Seoaepa, descended from Ryu Seong-ryong a noted prime minister during the reign of King Seonjo of Joseon in the Bukchon side. The north village contains Yangjindang Manor, designated as Treasure No. 306, and Pikchondaek House, designated Important Folklore Material No. 84. The south village contains Chunghyodang Manor, designated as Treasure No. 414 and Namchondaek House, an Important Folklore Material No. 90. While each branch of the Pungsan Ryu clan used lived in their respective manor homes and sides, today both branches live throughout the village.
The village maintains old architectural styles that have been lost because of rapid modernization and development in South Korea. Aristocratic tile-roofed residences and thatched-roof servants’ homes preserve the architectural styles of the Joseon Dynasty. Wonjijeongsa Pavilion and Byeongsan Confucian School are two notable structures in the village.
The village has preserved the shamanist rite of Byeolsin-gut and preserved Hahoe masks used in the Hahoe Mask Dance. Another rite still practiced is the Jeulbul Nori which uses strings of fireworks fired at the base of the Buyongdae Cliff. Yongmogak Shrine houses Ryu Seong-ryong’s collection of books and includes South Korean National Treasure No. 132, the Jingbirok, a book which records the Imjin War of Korea in 1592. Treasure No. 160, Kunmundungok, is a record of the military encampments. Chunghyodang also holds 231 royal writs of appointment.See also Eungbongsan (Seoul) is a mountain in Eungbong-dong
Inside the village there is a 650-year-okd zelkova tree called Samsindan said to be home to the goddes Samsin, in Korean Shamanism. Visitors write their wishes in pieces of paper and hang them next to the tree.
Queen Elizabeth II visited Hahoe Village in 1999. During her visit, locals in the village prepared a party to celebrate her 73rd birthday.
Intangible cultural asset
Hahoe Byeolsingut Mask Play
The mask play, which has been played in Hahoe-ri, Pungcheon-myeon, Andong City, North Gyeongsang Province, is National Intangible Cultural Festival No. 69. The origin of this mask play is Seonangje’s mask dance, which is an involuntary dramatic victory observed in Dongje, unlike Sandae Myeonghwajeon, a Korean traditional mask play. Byeolsingut Tal Nori is a mask play that is included in the overall village rite, and is a mixture of ritual, folk opera and pantomime.
Sunyu Line Fire
‘Sunyu Line Fire’ is a folk game in which people hang a bag filled with charcoal powder on a long string hanging in the air and enjoy a spectacular event in which flames come on fire. In Andong’s Hahoe Village, the aristocrats went boating together with a poem and a song under the full moon in July. At this time, he enjoyed pouring oil on egg shells or buppy pieces and flying them with a wick, or dropping pine tree stems that had been lit on Buyongdae.
Hahoe Folk Village is listed as a world heritage since 2010 and attract more than 1 million visitors per year.
Since 2021, tour carts have been blocked to enter the site in order to preserve the village.
2- Discover Yangdong Folk Village : a traditional yangban
Yangdong Folk Village (Yangdong Village of Gyeongju) is a traditional yangban (Korean Aristocracy) village from the Joseon dynasty.The village is located in Gangdong-myeon, sixteen kilometers northeast of Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea, along the Hyeongsan River. Mt. Seolchang stands to the north of the village. The village is designated as Important Folklore Materials No. 189 by the South Korean government.
The size, degree of preservation, numerous cultural assets, traditionalism, beautiful natural setting all contribute to the importance of Yangdong Village. It is also a fine example of the yangban (Korean aristocracy) lifestyle and Neo-Confucian traditions.
The village is listed by the South Korean government with UNESCO as a World Heritage site with Hahoe Folk Village in 2010.
The village was founded by Son So (孫昭 1433-1484).The household of the Wolseong Son clan was placed on an auspicious site according to Korean theories of pungsu (geomancy). Son So and his wife, the daughter of Yu Bok Ha had a daughter who married Yi Beon of the Yeogang Yi family. The marriage produced one of the eighteen sages of Korea, Yi Unjeok. The village of Yangdong has continued since its auspicious beginning in the 15th century.
Although some of the village is unoccupied today, the overall the village has over 160 tile-roofed and thatched-roof homes built throughout the dense forest. Fifty-four historic homes over 200 years old have also been preserved. The village preserves folk customs as well as traditional buildings of traditional Joseon dynasty architecture. Seobaekodang is the primary home of the Wolseong Son Family.
Mucheomdang, is the primary house of the Yeogang Yi family. Hyangdan is National Treasure No. 412 .Ihayangjeon and Simsujeong pavilions, and the Ganghakdang village school are also notable structures of the village as well as Gwangajeong and Sonsoyeongjeong. Tonggamsokpyeon, a book printed on movable metal type and National Treasure No. 283, is also located in the village. A picture of the village as you enter it.See also The History of Hangeul: The Korean Alphabet
Important folk materials at the village include:
- Geunam Manor
- Dugok Manor
Other cultural properties include:
- Jeokgae Gongsin Nonsang Rokgwan (Tangible Cultural Property )
- Sonso’s Will (Tangible Cultural Property )
- Pine Tree in Yangdong
- Son Jong-ro Jeongchungbigak (Cultural Asset Material No. 261)
- Gyeongsan Seodang (Folk Cultural Asset Material)
- Dugok Yeongdang (Folk Cultural Asset Material).
The village follows the topography of the mountains and valleys and is shaped like an auspicious Hanja character. This arrangement has been carefully preserved. The homes of the Wolseong Son and Yeogang Yi clans, as well as their descendants’ homes are located on the high ground of the mountains and valleys. The lower-class homes, characterized by their thatched roofs were built on lower ground. The village’s organization highlights the severe social stratification characteristic of Joseon dynasty society. Prince Charles visited Yangdong in 1993.