Happy Busday: A Tour of Baeksuk Maeul Village in Dangjin
Last Thursday I went on a tour of Baeksuk Maeul Village, a rural village in Dangjin, about 1.5 hours southwest of Seoul. This tour, Happy Busday (Konglish?), was organized by a PR firm, on behalf of the Korean government (MAFRA – Ministry of Food and Rural Affairs), to promote various small towns in Korea. I, along with three other ladies, went as a “foreign ambassador” on behalf of the American Women’s Club, Korea. Foreigners made up half of the group, while Koreans (mostly college students) made up the other half. Before arriving in Baeksuk Village, we were told to wear our purple Busday shirts. The Koreans were given smalls and mediums, and the foreigners received either XL or 3XL!
We were greeted in Baeksuk by a bunch of smiling old ladies (the Koreans called them “grandmas”). These ladies started their own han gwa (한과 traditional Korean rice snack) business, using only local ingredients. They are all over the age of 60 (average age of 70) and are all equal owners in the company. The leader of the group gave a presentation (in Korean) about how the business was started and the other ladies all chimed in (it was really cute!). We had a nice vegetarian bibimbap lunch before making some han gwa of our own. We dipped the puffed rice cakes in a syrup made out of plum, and then coated the cakes with bits of crushed, puffed rice. It was actually really fresh and tasty (more so than the ones I’ve had in teashops in Seoul). Apparently our table wasn’t working fast enough, because every once in a while, one of the grandmas would come over and tell us to hurry up. We were reminded of the “I Love Lucy” episode where Lucy and Ethel were working at the chocolate factory! We were given boxes to store our rice treats and told that traditionally, han gwa is given to friends and family during Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) that is coming up (this week).
Then, we were interviewed about our experience. Not sure where the footage will end up… perhaps on the local news? After taking a bunch of pictures with the grandmas, we set off for White Lotus, a makgeolli (막걸리) factory. Makgeolli is traditional Korean rice alcohol (slightly sweet and milky white). At the White Lotus, we met the makgeolli master and his son. We had a quick tour of the factory before tasting three different kinds of makgeolli (their low-end, medium-range, and high-end). The high-end one was transparent and yellow in color- it’s expensive because very little of it is created each time (skimmed off the top of a traditional makgeolli batch). I’m not a fan of makgeolli, but it was nice to taste the three types. I could definitely tell that the medium-range one was sharper in taste than the low-end one. But, I think I’ll stick to red wine. 😉
It was fun venturing outside of Seoul and meeting the grandmas who started their own han gwa business!