A custom wishing for a rich harvest of fish by fishing villages, having held up a bongjuk.
A bongjuk (a flag symbolizing a full load of fish), which is an essential item of Bongjuk Nori, is originally a flag showing a ship with a full load of fish. When croakers were commonly caught, boats with a bongjuk were often witnessed during the croaker season. In this regard, the origin and history of Bongjuk Nori has a very strong tie with croaker fishing. Indeed, the ships that caught an abundance of croakers used to return to a port with a hoisted bongjuk while playing instruments. Also, the height of the flag could indicate the amount caught. If the flag was hung high, the haul was of little consequence, while the flag’s lower positioning would indicate a more successful catch.
A bongjuk is a flag with a 2 - 3-meter-long bamboo pole, split into several parts and decorated with artificial flowers. The flag was prepared prior to commencing the fishing expedition. In order to make a bongjuk, bamboo, straw, and paper, or clothes, were needed. Also, anywhere from 10 – 20 people were required to make one.
Bongjuk Nori has ritualistic attributes, which have been transmitted primarily in the western coast region, with two kinds of rituals, depending upon the timing of the performance. One type involves people playing instruments when a boat with a full load of fish returns to the port. Another type involves people performing this custom in connection with the other rituals of the village. The latter of the two has been the primarily source of transmission through the generation. For example, the villages of Hwangdo Island, in Chungcheongnam- do Province, are gathered together under their dangsan tree (sacred guardian tree) to hold a ritual on the 15th of the first lunar month to wish for a rich harvest and abundant haul of fish. Residents would carry a bongjuk (or a bunggi, in accordance to their regional dialect), and dance while singing a traditional Korean ballad called Bunggi Taryeong. In short, the Bongjuk Nori is a custom combining dancing and singing with Bongjuk Taryeong as the primary song.
During the Bongjuk Nori, all participants dance along to the rhythm of the farmers’ music. There is no definite form of dance, as it is spontaneous. Some go on to also argue that the dance cultivates courage and fearlessness within the fishermen.