Crowds flounder and scream in the gray mud. Crazed people struggle with each other, fighting fiercely to throw others into the mud. The streets of a small coastal village are messy with mud. Mud-covered pedestrians, some already tipsy, wander along the beachside streets. But this is not a battlefield or a disaster area. It’s typical scenery during the Boryeong Mud Festival.
The festival, which runs from July 16-24 this year, is one of South Korea’s most popular summer events. Around 2-3 million domestic and international festival-goers visit the beach during the event each year to enjoy mud-related activities such as mud slides, mud wrestling, a mud king contest and mud massages.
As the year winds down in Seoul, highly-educated fighters dressed in business attire gather for a dramatic showdown. A sky-blue colored dome theater is the venue, and this year, it was again prepared for the upcoming event. Chairs, tables and other office furniture are stacked up on the floor to block people from entering rooms. Police officers stand guard as they surround the domed theater to prepare for any emergency situations. There are ambulances and medics. All entrances to the theater are closed, with tight security allowing only those with prior authorization to enter.
The match begins. Hundreds of people, who don’t look like mixed martial arts fighters, gather in front of the gate of the main event room. They are defenders. They discuss and plan their strategies. Chanting “Keep the position,” they form scrimmages. The opponent’s fighters roll up into the hall. The offenders also make a plan on how to break through defenders’ scrimmages. They stand ready to rush. Somebody from the attackers shouts “Let’s go.” All of the offenders including dozens of women make a dash. There’s pushing and shoving. The hall is filled with screams and shouts. Camera flashes are fired at them. It’s like a red carpet ceremony. Some fighters fall and collapse. One wounded person cries with pains. Immediately medics come and take her to a hospital.