HWACHEON, South Korea, Jan. 31 (Yonhap) -- The ongoing 2017 Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival has crossed the 100,000 mark in the number of foreigners visiting the event, reconfirming its fame as one of the world's four biggest winter festivals, the organizer said Tuesday.
"The number of foreigners who have enjoyed the festival was calculated at 101,000 as of Monday after opening on Jan. 14 for a 23-day run, and it's the first time that the festival has surpassed the 100,000 line since its launch in 2003," the organizer said.
The number of foreign visitors, which began to be compiled in 2006, has been gradually increasing -- 1,200 in 2006, 1,370 in 2007, 2,050 in 2008, 3,030 in 2009, 7,000 in 2010, 25,721 in 2012, 33,970 in 2013, 33,407 in 2014, 52,947 in 2015 and 78,000 last year.
"The increase has been helped largely by renowned foreign tourist guidebooks and foreign broadcasters introducing the event, overseas promos and efforts to attract individual foreign tourists," the organizer said.
The festival also operates shuttle buses between Hwacheon, 118 kilometers northeast of Seoul, and major tourist destinations in Seoul, including Gwanghwamun Square, Myeongdong and Hongdae, to attract more foreign tourists, it said.
The event was chosen as the nation's best festival by the culture ministry in 2010 and regarded as one of the world's four major winter festivals. The program "Catch Sancheoneo With Your Bare Hands" has been one of the biggest contributors to making the festival a global winter event. Sancheoneo is a type of mountain trout.
The festival began to welcome more than 1 million tourists in 2006 with 1.03 million, followed by 1.25 million in 2007, 1.3 million in 2008, 1.05 million in 2009, 1.33 million in 2010, 1.44 million in 2012, 1.38 million in 2013, 1.33 million in 2014, 1.5 million in 2015 and 1.55 million last year.