Jara islands – islands rising high once a year.

   In every october, there is an event which makes me excited. Jarasum international jazz festival is one of renowned annual music festivals in Korea. This year it is the 7th year of festival since 1994. It is also famous for it’s natural and beautiful outdoor environment for the event-Jara islands.  Jara islands are composed of four connected islands and are located on Bukhan-river in Gapyung city of Kyungki-do. The festival takes place during a weekend in October, multiple stages of which are scattered in Jara-islands and also neighboring Gapyung city’s downtown area .It has been 6years since Jara islands were rediscovered by festival organizers and have been developed from useless land to a host of the big event as the festival grows. The accumulated number of visitors for the festival so far is around 600,000 and last year it brought the most visitors in it’s history, 140,000 people.

   Four small islands- east island, west island, mid island, and south island, makes Jara-islands. Since they were formed due to construction of Chugpyung-dam in 1943, development of Jara-islands has been restricted because of seasonal flood.  Before the festival, it was a deserted land where only a few people would come for fishing sometimes. After 6 years since the festival began, now in west island there is a camping area, which attracts in average 1500 campers in every weekend. Mid island and south island have been developed as a natural park. Until 2007, the festival utilized west-island as a parking lot and mid and south islands as locations for stages. The significant changes were made in 2008. It was when camping area was built on west island and the festival has extended it’s spatial range up to city scale over the boundary of islands since then. Now this year’s map of the festival includes the plaza in front of train station, local market, water pumping station, war memorial park and several parking lots available in down town. And there is a shuttle bus circulating all those stops in and out of Jara-islands. not only in organizing spaces but also in organizing program, there have been efforts to amplify an impact of the event from Jara-islands to local scale such as offering information of accommodations around city in official website of the festival and organizing the festival ticket including coupons to buy local products.


   There are roughly around 3000 islands in Korea and over 400 of them are inhabited. There have been attempts to utilize them as resources in one way or another by central or local government. I also have participated in a research project of such a theme a few years ago. I believe islands should remain as a romantic ideal, which means keeping them as much as they are is the best way of utilizing them. But it is not easy to persuade central and local government or inhabitants of islands to take invisible and process based way of “development”. That’s why I find the case of Jara island’s evolution is noticeable. The festival has activated the islands as a dynamic force of the local area with the least physical implementation. It is only three days a year when the event occupies the area. However, once people experience the moment of beautiful sun set behind the stage and the music echoes through river and forest around, it is such a long lasting excitement which makes people would come back again and again. There is no concrete facilities in Jara-islands. The unique case of Jara-islands’ evolution shows the good example of “weak” plan which seek to create new spatial organizations of existing resources in context rather than constructing self-sufficient complex isolated from neighboring context.



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One Response to Jara islands – islands rising high once a year.

  1. mtlcan says:

    mtlcan (2010.10.19)
    Interesting article!
    I was wondering how big were the islands, since they seem to welcome a lot of people at once?

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