By Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post media
On May 26th this year, Mayor Choi Kyung-sik of the Namwon City, Jeollabuk-do Province, invites ambassadors and their spouses to attend the opening ceremony of the famed local festival, Chunhyang-je.
Mayor Choi wishes to impart with the distinguished international personalities and their spouses to witness first-hand the tale and details of the Chunghyang Festival, which is held in memory of the best-noted chaste woman of Korea, Sung Chun-hyang.
Chunhyang-jeon (literally, The Story of Chunhyang or The Tale of Chunhyang) is one of the best-known love stories and folk tales of the Korean peninsula. It is based on the Pansori Chunhyang-ga, the most famous of the five surviving pansori tales.
According to an account of Wikipedia, the date of composition and author are unknown and the present form took shape between 1694-1834.
Main characters appearing in the tale are:
Miss Sung Chunhyang (Spring Fragrance) who is the main female character, Entertainment Woman Gisaeng Wolmae's daughter. She is very beautiful and also talented in poetry and arts. She falls in love with Yi Mongryong.
Yi Mongryong is the main male character who is the son of a government official (magistrate of the Namwon area, Jeollanam-do Province). He is an intelligent and handsome man. He falls in love with Chunhyang at first sight.
Hyangdan is Chunhyang's servant. She is devoted to Chunhyang.
Bangja is Mong-yong's male servant.
Wolmae (Moon Plum) is Chunhyang's mother who used to be a Gisaeng entertainment woman.
Byeon Hakdo is the replacement official of Mong-yong's father.
Yi Mong-yong, who always studies hard, goes out to get some fresh air. He sees Chunhyang on a swing and he falls in love with her at first sight.
Mong-yong orders his servant, Bangja, to ask Chunhyang to come to him but she refuses. Mong-yong then goes to talk to Chunhyang's mother, Wolmae, to ask permission to marry Chunhyang.
Wolmae gives her permission and the two young people marry that day.
Yi Mong-yong's father, the mayor of the Namwon County, has to move to Hanyang (now Seoul) so Mong-yong has to leave Chunhyang to follow his father.
Chunhyang gives Mong-yong a ring as a token of her love for him and promises to stay faithful to him and wait for him to come back in the future and take her to Seoul.
After he leaves, a replacement for Mong-yong's father comes to Chunhyang's village. The new replacement is Byeon Hak-do, a greedy and selfish person who wastes his time frolicking with gisaeng entertainment women.
Chunhyang, renowned for her beauty, is summoned by the new magistrate. Although Chunhyang is not a gisaeng, Byeon treats her like one because her mother was a gisaeng.
Byeon orders Chunhyang to work as a gisaeng for him, but Chunhyang refuses, stating that she has one true love. Byeon gets angry and imprisons her. He decides to punish her on his birthday.
Yi Mong-yong wins the first place in a state examination and he becomes a secret royal inspector, or Amhaengeosa, who investigates and prosecutes corrupt government officials as an undercover emissary of the king.
Under disguise, he returns to Chunhyang's village and finds out what has happened to Chunhyang and Byeon's abuse of power. Yi must conceal his real identity so he acts like a penniless person and wears ragged clothes. Despite his feigned poverty, Chunhyang still loves him and asks her mother to take good care of him.
Yi Mong-yong barges into Byeon's birthday celebration uninvited and makes a satirical poem about Byeon's misconducts, but Byeon does not understand the poem.
Yi Mong-yong discloses his real identity and punishes Byeon.
At first, Chunhyang cannot recognize Yi Mong-yong and he tests her fidelity by asking her to be his gisaeng as a bed-make for a night.
Chunhyang, who still cannot recognize him, refuses him as well. Deeply moved by her faithfulness, Yi Mong-yong orders a servant to show her the ring Chunhyang gave him.
She is shocked that he is Yi Mong-yong and they live happily ever after.
Like any other literature, The Tale of Chunhyang also reflects the state of the society at that time in Korea.
Although the author is unknown, it is deducible that every nation was involved. The common people might get vicarious pleasure from the main characters who get over the difference of social standings and punish the greedy lord. Also keeping female's integrity is the traditional Korean's conservative moral.
Special notice: Each participating ambassador is presented with a prestigious Plaque of Citation for contribution to the promotion of understanding, friendship and cooperation between Korea and their country jointly signed by the Mayor of the Namwon City and Publisher-Chairman of The Korea Post media.