A world-famous ice fishing festival will open in Hwacheon this weekend to animate the economy of this remote mountainous town near the border with North Korea, organizers said Monday.
The annual Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival will kick off Saturday on a frozen river in the town, about 120 kilometers northeast of Seoul, for a run ending Jan. 28. The event will feature a wide variety of winter activities.
More than one million people are expected to flock to the town to drop a fishing line through a hole in the ice and catch "sancheoneo" -- a species of trout known to live only in very clean fresh water. The festival's signature program can be enjoyed day and night.
|(Korea Tourism Organization)|
|(Korea Tourism Organization)|
Braving freezing temperatures, visitors clad in T-shirts and shorts can jump into the icy water to catch fish with their bare hands. Festivalgoers can engage in dozens of other activities, as well.
The Hwacheon county office and its residents have come up with the idea of launching the festival in a desperate bid to kick-start the local economy, which is most vulnerable to North Korea's missile and nuclear provocations. And it has become an instant smash hit.
After being launched in the town of 27,000 people in 2003, the festival will mark its 15th edition this year. The government has recently designated it as South Korea's most representative festival for the fifth consecutive year, while CNN once touted it as one of the "Seven Wonders of Winter."
The annual festival has attracted more than one million tourists, including foreign visitors, for 11 years running, putting it in the ranks of the world's four most famous winter festivals, alongside Japan's Sapporo Snow Festival, China's Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival and Canada's Quebec Winter Carnival.
A record 110,000 foreigners visited the 2017 festival in January, with the total number of visitors reaching an all-time high of 1.53 million.
Organizers said they have done their best to make the festival more diverse and visitor-friendly, as more people are expected to come to the remote town this year.
About 19,000 fishing holes will be made on the frozen river, nearly 4,000 more than last year. The county will release 180 tons of sancheoneo during the festival period.
In addition to ice fishing and bare-hand fishing, a wide range of activities and attractions are in store for visitors.
In front of the entrance to the festival site is a facility to promote Santa Claus Village, an amusement park in Rovaniemi in the Lapland region of Finland, and a Santa Claus post office, the first of its kind in South Korea.
Visitors can also view snow sculptures and a 100-meter-long ice castle and participate in 60 different sports programs and traditional Korean winter games, including sleigh riding, bobsleigh, sledding and ice soccer.
Organizers have also come up with special programs, as the festival ends 12 days before the start of the 2018 Winter Olympics to be held in PyeongChang and nearby cities from Feb. 9-25. An Olympic torch relay will be held in a bid to create a buzz ahead of the Winter Games.
Duty-free shops will be established for foreign visitors, allowing them to purchase South Korean-made cosmetics, processed foods, souvenirs and agricultural produce.
websites in English, Chinese, French, German, Spanish and Thai will be launched as part of efforts to help foreigners enjoy the festival better and get more information.
A facility has been set up for broiling sancheoneo that foreigners catch at the fishing grounds so that they can eat the fish without the hassle of waiting in a long line.
The county office will run a bus service for foreigners only, starting at Seoul's popular university district of Hongdae and arriving in Hwacheon via the shopping district of Myeongdong in the South Korean capital.
At night during the festival, a 5-kilometer street at the heart of the town will be adorned with 27,000 lamps made by its residents in the shape of sancheoneo, one for each person who lives in the town.
The town will also open a plaza of ice sculptures, which 30 experts from China's Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival have manufactured over the past month.
County chief Choi Moon-soon said it is putting the finishing touches to the upcoming festival. "We are making preparations for the event (to go off) without a hitch to help domestic and foreign visitors to enjoy it safely and conveniently," he said. "We will do our best to enable them to make unforgettable winter memories in this clean town." (Yonhap)