Get dirty at home: COVID-19 moves South Korea’s mud festival online

SEOUL: When a pandemic threatens a good romp in the mud, some South Koreans bring the mud home with them instead. 

The popular Boryeong Mud Festival, halted this year because of COVID-19, instead became an online celebration of soil, with people from around the country enjoying mud pools and mud packs in their homes – and streaming the dirty results.

The annual mud extravaganza, in Boryeong on the coast 130km southwest of the capital Seoul, is South Korea’s most popular festival for international visitors. They typically flock to the beach in their hundreds for mud slides, mud wrestling and other revelry.

Children play in a mud pool during the Online Boryeong Mud Festival at their home during a live str
Children play in a mud pool during the Online Boryeong Mud Festival at their home during a live streaming event, in Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea, July 18, 2020. REUTERS/Heo Ran

This year the city set up a large screen in a studio streaming images of hundreds of people, some with mud kits consisting of a mini-pool, mud packs, mud soaps and colourful mud powders.

Daubed with blue, red and yellow mud powders, many watched singers perform online.

“I was sad that I wasn’t able to go to the Boryeong Mud Festival, but it is great that my Mom made a mud pool,” said 10-year-old Han Chae-yoon, sitting in a mini-pool in her living room, her face and body covered with mud.

A girl with colored mud on her face is seen during the Online Boryeong Mud Festival at her home dur
A girl with colored mud on her face is seen during the Online Boryeong Mud Festival at her home during a live streaming event, in Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea, July 18, 2020. REUTERS/Heo Ran

Children play in a mud pool during the Online Boryeong Mud Festival at their home during a live str
Children play in a mud pool during the Online Boryeong Mud Festival at their home during a live streaming event, in Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea, July 18, 2020. REUTERS/Heo Ran

Her mother Kim young-ah told Reuters, “My home gets dirty, but the children enjoy it and I am happy for that.”

About 3,000 people, including K-pop fans from overseas, watched the live event on YouTube.

Boryeong launched the festival on Daecheon Beach in 1998 to rejuvenate a local economy hit by the Asian financial crisis. The event promoted mud-based cosmetics said to be good for the skin – turning what is known as a dirty beach into one of South Korea’s biggest tourist attractions.