Positioned in northeastern part of South Korea adjacent to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between South and North Korea, Hwacheon County had been known as one of the smallest local self-governing bodies in area, population and economy in the country. But since 2003, it has been widely recognized as the host of a winter festival called the ‘Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival’. The sancheoneo means a cherry salmon in Korean that lives in clean valley stream. With a number of high mountains and deep valleys, the County has been hosting the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival in January every year when the region is covered by white snow, attracting over a million tourists. The festival provides colorful and exciting programs, including ice fishing on the Hwacheon Stream, experience of ice, ice carving and ice-sled contest.
Starting with 220,000 tourists in the first year of 2003, the number of visitors exponentially increased to 500,000 persons in 2004 and to over one million since the Festival in 2006 though it was negatively affected by prevalence of the foot-and-mouth disease in the region in early 2011, which resulted in cancellation of the Festival for that year. But the Festival was resumed in 2012 to meet growing popularity among Korean tourists as well as foreign tourists. In 2015 alone, more than 78,000 foreign tourists took part in the Festival. To publicize the Festival more effectively, the County government is currently conducting promotional activities in Southeast Asia in collaboration with major travel agencies in the region. And it recently participated in the China International Travel Mart, the largest travel fair in China.
After it was designated as a promising festival in 2007 by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Festival was selected as an excellent festival in 2008 and as the best festival for the fourth consecutive year since 2010. And it has been keeping the title of ‘Korea’s representative festival’ for three years since 2014. In addition, it was selected as one of 7 mysterious winter events by Lonely Planet, a global tourism magazine in 2011. Leveraging accumulated experiences and knowhow, the County authority will host the Festival for 23 days from January 7 to January 29, 2017 around the Hwacheon Stream under the slogan ‘Unfrozen Hearts, Unforgettable Memories’. Major programs include ice fishing, evening fishing, lure fishing, experience of snow-sled, ice-sled, bobsleigh and ice carving, ice-sled contest, and more. It will also provide a variety of street performances, lantern parade, local foods and beverages.
As for revenue gained from the Festival this year, it generated over 99.1 billion won (approx. US$84.7 million) in direct economic effect and 230.2 billion won (approx. US$196 million) in indirect economic effect, including production inducement effect and income inducement effect. It also generated 2,345 new jobs.
While demand of tourists is rapidly increasing, social infrastructures, such as roads and lodging facilities, are suffering from shortage. The County authority is seeking to expand roads in cooperation with the central and provincial governments. Fortunately, the central government decided this year to construct an express railroad between Chuncheon and Sokcho passing through Hwacheon.
In addition to the Sancheoneo Ice Festival, the County government has been hosting Bimok (Grave Wood) Culture Festival, Jjokbae (Raft) Festival and Tomato Festival. Among these, the Bimok Culture Festival is being held in June every year at the Peace Bridge in the County to remember unnamed war heroes who were sacrificed during the Korean War.