We’re not joking. We never thought that this day would come yet here we are.
*Before you read the article, listen to this to get in the right mood
Cherry blossom festivals are a pretty big deal in Korea. It is no wonder why Busker Busker’s Cherry Blossom Ending, released in 2012, keeps marching back to the top of the Korean music charts every spring. From March to April, you cannot walk down a single block without hearing the song from a nearby store. We’ve nicknamed the tune ‘벚꽃연금(Cherry Blossom Pension)’ for a reason.
Since Korea’s academic year begins in March, going to a cherry blossom festival is a ritual for new friends who just got to know each other to gather and break the ice. Korea’s two biggest festivals, Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival and Seokchon Lake Cherry Blossom Festival, each attracted 5.32 million and 5 million visitors in 2019. Families, friends, lovers used to visit a nearby festival, excited to see beautiful flowers and have a quality time with their loved ones.
But in 2021… yeah.
COVID, so upset that it never was invited anywhere, ran amok.
On the 22nd, Yeongdeungpo-gu, a district of Seoul, announced that it would completely shut down the 1.7km spring flower path behind the National Assembly Building from April 1 to 12, where Korea’s most representative cherry blossom festival used to be held.
Still, there is a ray of hope for people who can’t imagine Spring without some Cherry blossom pictures on their profile picture. The annual Yeongdeungpo Yeouido Spring Flower Festival will be held from April 5 to 11. That said, the festival is accessible to 3,500 people who are lucky enough to win lottery tickets. The festival starts from 11 to 21:30, and groups of 99 lottery winners will be allowed to enter the cherry blossom street at intervals of one and a half hours. Each person can bring three companions.
Even though the ward office promises the lottery to be impartial and random, a majority of people are expressing suspicion. (We’re at a point in society where we’re questioning the transparency of draws for seeing trees…) Some internet users are questioning, “Do we have to go that far for some trees?” while others advocate, “Controlling the number of picnickers could be a great way to control the virus.”
This new lottery draw system has led to the appearance of resellers. Yes, these tickets to see trees are now being sold like limited edition Jordans. In an internet community, some are already advertising they would sell their ticket at 300,000won ($264), which is quite the price pay considering there’s no official entrance fee. A related official responded to this saying, “There is an identity verification procedure on-site,” adding adamantly, “Those who got the tickets illegally will be denied entry.”
To apply for the draw, you must sign up in advance on the Spring Flower Festival website, which unfortunately as of now is only in Korean. The application starts on April 1 at 10 am. Don’t be discouraged even if you did not win the ticket. You will also be able to look at the cherry blossoms with a special street view the website will provide from April 1. Furthermore, it will feature live stages from artists such as Sam Kim and Kwon Jin-ah live-streamed. While it is disappointing that we can’t see the cherry blossoms in person, we are (sadly) adapting to this new reality and keeping our festivities rolling in new creative ways.