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A woman poses for photos as she visits the 13th Seoul Lantern Festival in the Cheonggyecheon area of Seoul on November 26, 2021.
Copyright  ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP or licensors

See how this unique cultural festival is lighting up the streets of Seoul

By Scott Brownlee

One of Seoul’s most unique cultural festivals, the lantern festival has lit up the streets of the South Korean capital for the 13th year in a row to the delight of tourists and locals alike.

Kicking off last week, the colourful 10-day-long festival is made up of 83 giant paper lanterns following the theme of ‘Forest of Healing, the Colours of Seoul’. It is a theme that aims to heal and give peace to citizens after a very difficult period.

ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP or licensors
People visit the 13th Seoul Lantern Festival in the Cheonggyecheon area of Seoul on November 26, 2021.ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP or licensors
ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP or licensors
A woman poses for photos as she visits the 13th Seoul Lantern Festival in the Cheonggyecheon area of Seoul on November 26, 2021.ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP or licensors
ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP or licensors
People visit the 13th Seoul Lantern Festival in the Cheonggyecheon area of Seoul on November 26, 2021.ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP or licensors

After being split across four different locations last year due to the pandemic, this year the festival returned to its home along the Cheonggye Stream which runs through downtown Seoul.

With the return of tourism to South Korea, the festival is being held in strict compliance with quarantine rules. Visitors have to undergo body temperature checks and visitor registration before they are allowed to enter. 

Organisers have also developed a virtual version of this festival, available online, which allows guests to visit 10 different exhibits using AR technology.

ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP or licensors
A child gestures as he visits the 13th Seoul Lantern Festival in the Cheonggyecheon area of Seoul on November 26, 2021.ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP or licensors
ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP or licensors
People pose for selfies as they visit the 13th Seoul Lantern Festival in the Cheonggyecheon area of Seoul on November 26, 2021.ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP or licensors
ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP or licensors
People visit the 13th Seoul Lantern Festival in the Cheonggyecheon area of Seoul on November 26, 2021.ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP or licensors
ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP or licensors
People pose for selfies as they visit the 13th Seoul Lantern Festival in the Cheonggyecheon area of Seoul on November 26, 2021.ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP or licensors

Earlier this year, the Seoul Tourism board hosted a nationwide paper lantern contest for a special entry into the festival. The winning forest-themed lantern has been presented along with the other 82 submissions.

As well as providing light through the shorter days of winter, paper lanterns represent the arrival of the festive period in Korean culture. It is a time when people can forget about life’s troubles for a short while and indulge themselves in fun activities.