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“Striving for Top Honors in the Government Exams!” The path to success in the Joseon Dynasty, unique to Jeonju. The ‘Jeonju Special Examination’ Reenactment

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The ‘Jeonju Special Examination’ was an important civil service exam conducted in 1593 in Jeonju by Crown Prince Gwanghaegun during the Imjin War. This historical and traditional event has been reenacted annually in the Jeonju Hanok Village since 2017.

“The Diverse ‘6th 1593 Jeonju Special Examination’ Reenactment – From Exams to Celebration”

The 6th reenactment of the 1593 Jeonju Special Examination was held on November 11, 2023, at the Jeonju Traditional Culture Training Center.

The event featured civil and military service exams to select candidates, complemented by traditional music performances, award ceremonies, and parades of those who passed, creating a day filled with various activities from exams to celebrations.

The Korean Traditional Culture Training Center, next to the Hyanggyo in Jeonju Hanok Village, is easy to find. Its sturdy Hanok gate entrance truly gives a feeling of stepping back into the Joseon era.

Participants, full of energy even at 9 am, were greeted by banners promoting the Jeonju Special Examination. The sounds of laughter and sight of tense expressions spilled over the walls.

Various engaging activities were set up at the entrance, including traditional printing, Chaekgori (bookcase) making, and traditional rulers and cup-shaped cookies. These activities were designed for enjoyment by participants and the public alike.

On this cool morning, traditional tea was especially popular, warming both the bodies and hearts of participants and visiting citizens.

Deeper inside the venue, participants’ names and scores were prominently displayed. The military exam, featuring Korean archery, was conducted with transparency, witnessed by many.

“Solemn and serious expressions of youth archery participants”

The archery exam was open only to youths who had completed archery training. Their solemn and serious attitudes were evident. The communal anticipation as each arrow flew towards the target was a highlight of the event.

It felt as gripping as a national team selection competition.

“A moment where the literary exam participants’ efforts really shined”

During the literary part of the civil service exam, competitions in Korean essay writing, Sijo, and Hanji poetry took place, with the works displayed at the training center. It was impressive to see that the quality of the students’ work made it hard to distinguish between youth and adult entries.

The great effort invested in these works could be seen, highlighting their hard work.

Following the exams, an engaging traditional Korean music performance was held. This provided a relaxing break for the participants who had been busy with exams all day, right before the award ceremony. The band, playing traditional Korean instruments, performed so well that it attracted a large audience beyond the training center.

The parade for the successful candidates included a marching band from Jeonbuk National University’s Department of Korean Traditional Music, a flag-bearing team from the Tradition & Culture Village Association, and a percussion group from the Hanok Village.

This procession, which seemed to herald the candidates’ success, began with the sound of traditional Korean percussion and headed towards the Traditional Culture Training Center. This event drew many people, including myself, back to the center to watch.

Many others, curious about the procession, followed it. After the award ceremony, the successful exam candidates, wearing the ceremonial Usahwa flowers in their hair, paraded through the streets of Eunhaeng-ro, Taejo-ro, and Gyeonggijeon. The successful candidates ended their procession at Gyeonggijeon, where they reported their accomplishments to the portrait of King Taejo (the founder of the Joseon Dynasty) and expressed their gratitude.

Despite the cold, the day flew by, driven by the participants’ enthusiasm. Those who achieved top honors will especially remember this day. I hope everyone had a meaningful time at the Jeonju Special Examination held in the Jeonju Hanok Village.

I’m thinking of participating in the adult category next year! How about you give it a try too?

 

📍 Korean Traditional Culture Training Center
119-6 Hyanggyo-gil, Wansan-gu, Jeonju-si, Jeollabuk-do, South Korea

📍 Jeonju Hanok Village
99 Girin-daero, Wansan-gu, Jeonju-si, Jeollabuk-do, South Korea

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