Saturday, September 11, 2010

Geumsan birthplace to Korea’s Ginseng

A family of expatriates holds ginseng they dug from a farm in Geumsan, South Chungcheong Province, on Sept. 4. The 2010 Geumsan Ginseng Festival offers Korean and foreign visitors a range of programs in which they can participate. The ginseng digging excursion is one of the most popular activities among visitors.
/ Courtesy of the 2010 Geumsan Ginseng Festival Organizing Committee.

Geumsan, South Chungcheong Province ­ Geumsan County, the birthplace to the world famous Korean ginseng, also known as ``Goryeo insam,” is holding the 2010 Geumsan Insam Festival on Sep. 3 to 12, attracting tens of thousands of health-conscious visitors from home and abroad.

Visitors can taste ginseng chicken soup and other delicious dishes made from ginseng and other healthy ingredients at local restaurants, while participating in a range of programs and view ginseng promotion exhibitions at the festival venue, which is set up at the heart of the Geumsan County.

They can also visit the nearby traditional market where over 1,000 shops and stalls offer a variety of high-quality ginseng and medical herbs at cheaper than normal prices.

The festival marks its 30th anniversary this year and has become one of the nation’s most popular and successful local fairs. It has been rated highly for providing visitors with a wide array of events and programs designed to promote Geumsan’s cultural heritage in which ginseng plays a central role. 

Ginseng and its health benefits on humans have also made it possible for festival organizers to differentiate the fair from others, turning it into a must-see celebration for both Korean and foreign tourists.
With Geumsan preparing to hold the ginseng world expo in 2011 to draw a number of buyers from home and abroad and revitalize the regional economy, this year’s festival has been organized as a rehearsal for next year by boosting its commercial value. 

Festival organizers expanded the ginseng trade center where various processed ginseng goods are displayed for sale. They have also launched active publicity campaigns through media outlets here and abroad to attract more interested buyers.

The 30th Geumsan Insam Festival 

The festival staged an opening ceremony on Sept.3, featuring a street parade by county residents and other festive events in the downtown area. To draw a stable stream of tourists during the 10-day period, it will continue to hold a series of interesting programs, including the ginseng cooking contest, a signing contest and a fashion show.

Visitors can participate in a variety of activities offered by large-scale booths at the festival venue. 
At the Hall of Noted Doctor, people can receive acupuncture and medical counseling from certified oriental doctors free of charge, while eating a range of local foods using ginseng at the ginseng herb restaurant at affordable prices.

At the Hall of Health Experience, visitors see a range of medical treatments and services. They can treat themselves to a ginseng foot spa and ginseng facial massage. 

At the Hall of Cultural Experience, tourists can gain firsthand knowledge on growing ginseng. They learn how to plant the seeds in a makeshift field, harvest fully-grown ginseng and dry them. At the Ginseng Trade Center, a number of booths offer a variety of ginseng processed goods, including ginseng wine, juice and candies.

Organizers are confident that this year’s festival will be more attractive than those in the past with carefully prepared things to see, eat, buy and play with under the theme of health and well-being.
``We attracted 700,000 Korean and foreign visitors last year. We expect the number to reach 800,000 this year. The main theme of this year’s festival is to promote health benefits of Geumsan ginseng on humans. Among others, a makeshift ginseng field installed at the center of the festival site has been a big hit among visitors,’’ said Choi Sang-kyu, manager of culture, tourism and PR division at Geumsan County.

Choi said the county will place greater priority on successfully organizing the expo in 2011 to maximize economic benefits by attracting commercial buyers from here and overseas.

He said Geumsan offers the best climatic conditions for growing ginseng, thanks to a steep difference in temperature between day and night. Geumsan ginseng offers the best medical effects when it is harvested from early July and processed through October.

Saponine, a key ingredient of ginseng, accounts for 5.2 percent of the total contents of Geumsan ginseng, far larger than that grown in other regions. 
``It is effective in reducing mental stress and anxiety, stimulating the immune system, lowering cholesterol levels, improving liver functions and boosting athletic performance,’’ Choi said.

Geumsan Insam & Drug Market 

Near the festival venue, the largest ginseng and herb market in the country welcomes visitors, with over 1,000 shops and stalls selling 50,000 to 60,000 tons of ginseng per day, valued at 600 million won. The amount represents 80 percent of the nation’s ginseng distribution. Also, a wide range of herbs are easily found.
Visitors can purchase high-quality ginseng and other herbs at 20 to 50 percent discounted prices, lower than anywhere in the country. For hungry shoppers, stores and street vendors offer fried ginseng, ginseng makgeoli and other easy-to-eat dishes at cheap prices.

Ginseng digging excursion & foods 

Those seeking to experience harvesting ginseng firsthand can travel to a farm just outside the downtown area. Visitors will be given a chance to harvest fully-grown ginseng and purchase freshly-picked high-quality ginseng at the site. The ginseng digging excursion has been the most popular event among Korean and foreign tourists alike. 

But filling up the stomach is as important as sightseeing and shopping for hungry tourists. Geumsan’s famous ginseng chicken soup, Insam Samgyetang, is one of Korea’s most popular stamina-boosting dishes. It is made by stuffing ginseng, garlic, jujube and glutinous rice into a young chicken and cooking it in hot water with ginseng. Many restaurants offer this dish here but among them, 
Wonjo Samgyetang (041-752-2678) is the most famous restaurant.

Another popular dish here is ginseng fish porridge. It is made by grinding ginseng and freshwater fish caught from the nearby river. It is then put into hot water along with rice and vegetables, and boiled for hours. Many tourists also become fond of the ginseng set menu, which offers a variety of ginseng-based dishes.

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