Cheongdo Bull Fighting Festival
Bullfighting is over a thousand years in South Korea, long before the days of the blood seeking and savage pursuit that exists deep in the culture of Spain and Latin America. The big difference between that kind of bullfighting and Korean bullfighting is that it neither has matadors or murder. It also does not involve the tormenting of animals nor the goring aspect you might see on YouTube sometimes. There is more importance placed on the unspoken natural bond that excists between man and ox, and the natural forces of the world that have bulls competing over territory.
In Cheongdo bullfighting, the bulls graze together in the field before they lock horns while spectators cheer on the action. In the beginning, bulls fought regardless of their size but in recent years that has all changed. Instead, the bulls are divided into three class divided by weight and once the fight begins, they use various techniques such as head bumping, pushing, neck butting and flank attacking to gain the upper hand in the contest.
From the 9th festival in 1998, the event swiftly became Korea’s largest bullfight event. In 1999, the Culture and tourism ministry selected the event as one of the top 10 local cultural festivals, recognizing it as the nation’s best bullfighting event. Spurred on by this recognition, Cheongdo Gun and the Cheongdo Bullfighting Association have worked together to offer various events, such as openly inviting Japanese fighting bulls, goodwill bullfighting between Korea and Japan, a rodeo show by US troops stationed in Korea. Some 210,000 tourists took part in the 5 day festival, with many foreign tourists and locals attending. These days the expected amount of tourists is so much more.
Since 1999, trainers have led their best bulls into the ring to compete for a prize of millions of won in a specially constructed 10,000 seater stadium. For four days in April, the quiet hills outside the sleepy town of Cheongdo are a bright, noisy bursts of old and new, of man and beast. The quiet green fields become parking lots and the roads are lined with vendors and makeshift restaurants. For the duration of the festival, Cheongdo feels like the most liveliest town in Korea.
Date: Thursday, April 15th – Sunday, April 19th
Price: free – W5,000
Place: 693-2 Samshinri, Hwayang-eup, Cheongdo-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do