“This really only costs 10,000 won?”

A festival was held in Muju-gun, Jeollabuk-do안전놀이터. As local festivals across the country have been facing controversy over ‘foolish fees’, the festival in Muju-gun has garnered more attention.

The ‘Muju Mountain Film Festival’ was held at Jinam Park in Muju-eup, Muju-gun for five days from the 2nd to the 6th of this month.

Starting this year, Muju County set a policy to eradicate extortionate fees and controlled food prices by directly managing the snack booths at the festival. Last month, local restaurants were invited to apply for the right to operate the festival’s snack booths. The conditions were that the participating companies had to develop a menu targeted at people in their 20s and 30s and keep the price of the food below 10,000 won. They were also required to unify the price of drinks and alcohol across all participating companies.

As a result, seven finalists were selected to participate in the festival. The menu featured 30 items, including pork belly, handmade sausages, kimbap, and tteokbokki. The actual prices were kept to Mujoo-gun’s will. A 26-centimeter-diameter plate filled with pork belly and bean sprouts was sold for 10,000 won, while a set of 20-centimeter-long handmade sausages with vegetables and bread cost only 3,000 won. A 500-milliliter bottle of rice wine was priced at 1,500 won. At the Hampyeong Butterfly Festival in Jeollanam-do last month, a vendor charged 10,000 won for a bowl of fish cake, but at the festival, a single fish cake skewer was sold for 1,000 won.

Kim Mo, 34, from Daejeon, said, “At other festivals, I would buy food that was unpleasant but expensive, but here I was surprised to find food that was comparable to market prices or even cheaper.” Jeon Byung-sul, 54, who operated a snack booth, said, “We sold the food at a reasonable price, so tourists tried more of the various menus, and our sales actually increased compared to last year’s festival.”

To reduce the use of disposable products, Muju County started using multi-use containers this year. As a result, the amount of garbage generated during last year’s festival, which was about 10 tons per day, was cut in half to 5 tons per day this year. “After the festival, participating companies voluntarily offered scholarships of 500,000 won each, making the event even more meaningful,” said Hwang In-hong, head of Muju-gun. “We will make sure that there will be no food complaints at the Firefly Festival in September.”

Earlier, at the Sannamul Festival in Noryeong-gun, Gyeongbuk, last month, a vendor was shown selling a 1.5-kilogram bag of old-fashioned snacks for 70,000 won on the air, prompting complaints that the snacks were “more expensive than beef,” and Noryeong-gun even apologized to the public. The Jinhae Gunhang Festival in Gyeongnam and the Chunhyang Festival in Namwon, Jeollabuk-do were also criticized on social media for charging 40,000 won for a plate of pork and 20,000 won for a pajeon.

The controversy over the exorbitant prices has led to festivals in the area to be canceled for fear of losing customers. The organizers of the Gangneung Danno Festival, which will be held in the Namdaecheon area of Gangneung, Gangwon Province, from April 18 to 25, recently met with tenant vendors and agreed to charge 12,000 won for two potato pancakes and 6,000 won for a bottle of “dannoju,” a rice wine, and to publish prices for snacks such as fish cakes and tteokbokki.

“As most festivals hand over the right to operate food booths through bidding, vendors who need to recoup their investment fall into the temptation of ‘stupid charges,'” said Song Kwang-in, a professor of tourism management at Chonju National University. “Like Muju, local governments can eradicate stupid charges by directly contracting and managing each tent individually.”

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