Korea Burn 2013: One Step Forward, But One Foot Stuck in the Mud


Korea Burn 2013 was a disappointment this year.  With that said, it was still my favorite event of this year.  The problem for me was that 2012’s version of Korea Burn set the standards ridiculously high.  After experiencing such a wonderful event last year, I was foolish enough to think last year was the norm and the event would only improve with each additional year.  I was wrong.  Unless bloggers in Korea and the expat community can do a better job of educating people about Burn Korea, the event will have more to worry about than meteorological disasters.

Let me be clear – I take responsibility for this failure.  I don’t know if it would have helped, but I should have written a pre-event post explaining the history and nature of Burning Man and Korea Burn.  I felt like people already understood Korea Burn after last year, but I forgot that I live in Korea and over half of the people who showed me the way last year are no longer here.

Burning Man is not a show.  It’s not a rock concert.  It’s not a music festival.  Korea Burn is a community event.  If Korea Burn is a success or a failure, it is a shared responsibility of the community – not the organizers.  If you disagree, you really have no concept of Burning Man.  I don’t think the failures of this year reflect the organizers of the event – they worked their asses off.  The failures reflect the community.

I saw two huge problems with Korea Burn this year.  First, there was no education on Burning Man.  Last year, when burners got off the bus, someone actually stopped and explained to them the meaning of the event.  Before the event, numerous posts about the meaning of Burning Man were being spread online.  People did not hear the phrase “leave no trace” for the first time on the Sunday morning of the event while cleaning their campgrounds.

Burning Man is hard to describe, but at least the attempts from last year provided some credence towards the event being something more than an excuse to do drugs or have sex.  That same inspiration and education for Korea Burn was lacking this year: the camps were not as good last year, there were less costumes, and there were less events and classes.  Instead, two girls on ecstasy licked my face because my beard felt good on their tongues.  It wasn’t the worst experience of my life, but it felt empty compared to last year.  Where were the yoga classes on the beach, the numerous dancing parties, the dance classes, the individuals handing out home-made items and the stories of how creativity and self-expression helped people overcome personal tragedy?  Last year was inspiring – this year was a good party.

The second problem was the party was located on Wayguk Beach.  Once again, we failed as a community to reach out to Koreans to make them feel comfortable and come to the event.  I know in some ways this is very difficult.  Burning Man is an event that originated from an English speaking country and the event revolves around individuality.  Korea Burn happens in a country where Koreans feel embarrassed if their English is not perfect.  Additionally,  Korean culture is one of the most collective and group oriented cultures in the world.

Yet, it’s not uncommon for Korean college students to go camping together and spend nights bonding over ramen and alcohol – lots of alcohol.  In Korea, this is known as MT or membership training.  Forming bonds between people is very serious in Korea and Burning Man is not alien to this concept or to alcohol.  We need to get on universities and collegiate groups involved.  I believe there is a desire for Koreans to bond and share their culture with foreigners.  I personally see Korea Burn as a great way to make this happen.  If Korea Burn never expands outside of the expat community, we really have no right to call it Korea Burn.

Apart from these two major problems, there were many commendable things about Korean Burn this year.  First, people who showed up on Friday were assaulted with torrential downpour.  I lost a photographer for the event because he woke up with college books and photography equipment ruined from flooding inside of his tent.  Let me assure you, this is a former military guy and he knows how and where to pitch a tent.  Had my equipment and bags been inundated with water, I would have also left like some people did – and no one blames them.  The people who stayed, however, are a true testament to the power and commitment to Korea Burn.  They were awarded with two days of great weather and despite my advanced criticism – a successful event.

We had some fantastic artist and contributors this year who enhanced the event.  I would like to share their work. I know Burning Man is not about consumerism, but things constructed for Burning Man events cost money.  It’s important to respect individuals and groups who pay with time and their own money to make a better experience for everyone.

Artist Allan Spisak
Artist Clifton Tryon
I don’t know this guy’s story, but he also did a great job. He would only show me his hand 🙂
The Burlesque show was also a great idea and a huge hit.
Huge shout out to the girls for their creativity and openness. I’ve never seen someone pour hot sauce all over their body.
I also have to give a shout out to the pickle shot tent. Delicious pickle shots and thanks for sharing your love with everyone. Daegu coming strong!

The clean-up was pretty good this year.  One of the concepts from Burning Man is to “leave no trace.”  This is followed with religious tenacity during Burning Man in Nevada.  It’s also the right thing to do.  If we all leave no trace of ourselves, we save a ton of work for other people, do right by the environment, and also create positive image for Burning Man in Korea.  Btw, image is kind of important and if Korea Burn continues to be successful the event needs a good reputation or we will not have a good area willing to host the event.  The coordinators told me the clean up was good compared to other festivals, but it needs to be perfect.  This is still unacceptable.


Finally, here are my favorite pictures from my camera for the event.  I still believe in Korea Burn and I had a wonderful time.  I know I criticized the event, but it’s only because my love and expectations for Korea Burn are incredibly high.

To see the rest of the pictures from Korea Burn 2013 and the WinK photobooth please click here.  I will be uploading the rest of the pictures throughout this week.

Also, feel free to check out coverage from last year’s Burn Korea.




















































  • Here is a great video from Levitation Crew recapping the weekend of Korean Burn.


    The Digital Journal – An account of the weather conditions on Korean Burn 2013.


    8 Comments Add yours

    1. Angela says:

      I would like to apologize to everyone about the absence of yoga this year. I taught the two classes last year, but I had strep throat this year. I attended (don’t worry – it was past the contagious period!) but I just wasn’t feeling up to the yoga classes, especially considering my lack of ability to prepare (I spent two days that week bedridden).

      The rain certainly put a damper on the yoga, too – there were some classes and workshops scheduled at at least one theme camp that I know of, but the rain resulted in some people not showing up or having a lake in the place their events were planned. It was certainly unfortunate, and again – I apologize, everyone!

      As an organizer, we are very interested to hear criticisms and suggestions to help make our future better and maintain a thriving community regardless of who comes and goes. So, thank you for this! Leave No Trace was my largest disappointment. I was leader of the Leave No Trace team, and I tried very hard to post really important and helpful information regarding this issue. I also walked around reminding people and camps all weekend, but this is not a job for one person or one team. This is a job for EVERYONE. It is really hard to enforce this aspect of a Burn in a country where it is commonplace to throw things on the ground, regardless of your environment. It also didn’t help, in my opinion, that the beach was already a bit dirty when we arrived. I already have some ideas for next year, and myself and a few of the other organizers are already in talks about making changes and improvements so that no one who attends in the future is confused about the principles of a Burn. It is really hard to understand a Burn without having been to Burning Man itself! Haha. However, I know many people (yourself included) who have really immersed themselves in this culture and who “get it”. We all have a role in spreading these values and also MAKING a Burn event what it is. It is a huge communal effort!

      Thank you SO much to each of you who participated, added to the overall vibe, stuck out the storm, and spread these beautiful values. We love you all!


      1. Thank you Angela, I hope I’m involved more next year as well. What a beautiful response and I completely agree with you!


    2. Adam says:

      Brent, you seem concerned with the direction Koreaburn takes but early in your article you imply people were using it as an excuse to “do drugs and have sex”. While you may be right, you should be careful if you don’t want to see your worlds picked up by some sensationalist Korean blog and the whole thing scrutinized or shut down by the police next year.


      1. More people will read your comment as opposed to misread one of the paragraphs in the middle.


    3. Dani says:

      Feel free to come help us organize everything next year! It will be nice to have a fresh set of eyes and ears to go over stuff in the early stages. Watch the Korea Burners facebook page for more info. We should start early in the spring! Love the pictures!


      1. I honestly wouldn’t know how to help. I know you guys worked hard and tried everything you could.


    4. Delray says:

      I know a bit late..but just discovered the article. I and my friends were hugely disappointed with the 2013 Korea Burn(did not decide to attend the one that just occurred here in 2014). Many problems: 1) The ticketing system. It was very bad and very unreliable, especially having the tickets mailed to you. If you weren’t home..the tickets just went back. You should allow bank transfers. Much easier and less hassle. 2) Total LACK of community. I thought this was supposed to be a Burning Man. Instead, everyone was in their own little group, clique, whatever and did not even try to involve others. 3) The trash. It was everywhere. I commented to my friends how foolish it was to hear this “no trace” mantra and yet see tons of trash everywhere. Those were my 3 biggest complaints about Korea Burn and the reason that my friends and I decided not to go to the even this year. It needs a lot of improvment.


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