(Seoul metropolitan government)
The annual Seoul Lantern Festival kicked off Friday for a 78-day run across four special tourism zones hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, the city government said.
The venue was moved from Cheonggye Stream in central Seoul to four neighborhoods -- Jamsil, Itaewon, Dongdaemun and Myeongdong -- that saw a sharp decline in tourism this year, the government said in a press release.
"We hope that through this event, our citizens who are exhausted from COVID-19 will receive comfort and that businesses in the special tourism zones will overcome this difficult time," Joo Yong-tae, a city official overseeing tourism, said.
The festival will run in succession in Jamsil (Oct. 30 - Nov. 6), Itaewon (Nov. 4 - Dec. 31), Dongdaemun (Nov. 6 - 15) and Myeongdong (Nov. 13 - Jan. 15).
Each zone will showcase lanterns made from traditional mulberry paper and featuring the neighborhood's distinct characteristics.
Jamsil will decorate a walking trail with lanterns shaped like maple and gingko leaves. Itaewon will feature lanterns resembling the main characters of the popular webtoon "Itaewon Class."
Dongdaemun's display will revolve around the themes of shopping and its historical gate, Heunginjimun. Myeongdong will exhibit a large Christmas tree lantern, as well as "Merli," a character based on Singapore's mythical creature Merlion, in celebration of the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between South Korea and Singapore.
The city government said it will send 53 officials to the four sites to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus during the festival.
It added that concerns about crowding led to its decision to spread out the festival across four venues, instead of holding it at Cheonggye Stream, which has drawn more than 2.5 million visitors to the annual event every year since 2009. (Yonhap)