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Hwacheon Mountain Trout Ice Festival opens Jan. 4'One of Seven Wonders of Winter' for a 22-day run

The 2014 Mountain Trout Festival and Winter Ice-Snow Fantasia (one of the 'Seven Winter Wonders of the World') starts tomorow (Sat. Jan. 4, 2014) at the Hwacheon County of Gangwon Province some 79.3 miles northeast of Seoul.

1.4 million persons reportedly visited Hwacheon Mountain Trout Festival last year having their fill of the joys of the winter--ice-fishing mountain trouts and treating their eyes to the colorful lanterns of the angels at the Seondeung Candle Light Festival that takes place in the night.

So called by CNN and Lonely Planet, the Hwacheon Sancheoneo (Mountain Trout) Ice Festival this year is expected to draw an estimated 1.5 million Korean and internatioal visitors.

Recently designated by the Central Government bas the 'Best Festival of the Republic of Korea,' the Hwacheon Mountain Trout Festival offers visitors a rare chance of catching mountain trouts through ice holes and bare-hand.

Hundreds of thousands of tourists are lost in fishing mountain trouts out of ice hole on the frozen surface of the Paro-Ho Lake in Hwacheon County in Gangwon Province during the Hwacheon Ice and Mountain Trout Festival on Jan. 16, 2010. Over 80 ambassadors, spouses and senior members of the Foreign Correspondents?Club visited the Festival organized by The Korea Post on that day. The tour included a visit to the legend-rich, much-talked-about Peace Dam, and sounded the Peace Bell of the World.

This year, the organizers expected that the 'fishermen' from around the world, as well as from within Korea, will be able to catch many more trouts than in any previous year as the river is literally 'full of trouts.'

The organizers also have a special VIP package which offers the important Korean and international visitors with an opportunity to rice an 'Ice Breaker' steel boat from the town of Hwacheon to the famous Peace Dam cutting through the thick-frozen surface of the scenic Paroho Lake.

Ambassadors, madams and other members of the Diplomatic Corps pose for the camera on board the 'Ice breaker' that carried the visitors to the Peace Dam and Peace Bell via the Paro-ho Lake.

▲'Ice breaker'

The VIP guests are also offered an opportunty to toll the Peace Bell of the World, shake hands with the Nobel Laurates (former President Mikhail Gorbachev of Russia, the late former President Kim Dae-jung, Rigoberta Menchu Tum of Guatemala, Jose Ramos Horta of Indonesia, Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh, Dalai Lama of Tibet, Elizateth Willians of the United Kingdom, Desmond Mpilo Tutu of Soouth Africa, and the noted figures of many other countries of the world), and a visit to the 'Water Museum of the Republic of Korea managed by K-Water.

Right: Amb. Murad Ali of Pakistan 'shakes hands with' former Prime Minister Han Seung-Soo who had visited the Peace Dam and Peace Bell. Left: Visiting foreign VIP guests does the same with one of the Nobel prize winners who had visited the venue.

Ambassadors and madams toll the Peace Bell in supplication for the peace of the world.

From left: Ambassadors Andonov of Bulgaria and Ali Nafti of Tunisia. novelist Lee Oisoo, Minister Counsellor Branko Marjanac of Serbia, Chairman Lee KS of The Korea Post, Mrs. Lee KS, Prof. Suh Bo-Hyuk of Seoul National University and Prof. Lee Na-mi of Myongji University in Seoul.

They are also invited to toll the Peace Bell of the World which was made with the expended bullets and shells donated by many countries of the world where there have been conflicts as a token of expression of hopes for peace in the world.

Nestled between the town of Hwacheon and the mountains, the Hwacheon River is not only covered by a thick layer of ice, but also by thousands of festival participants.

Mayor Jeong came all the way from the Festival sites to the bus parking lot to bid farewell to each ambassador and member of the Diplomatic Corps.

The Hwacheon Mountain Trout Ice Festival will be taking place in Hwacheon County in Gangwon-do province on Jan. 4-26, 2014. This virtually untouched region is known as the first area in Korea that freezes over in winter, and the river is covered with a thick layer of ice.

Who said Hwacheon offers only ice-fishing? You can land mountain trouts also from the water standing on the river bank (top left). Koreans, expats, young and old, all enjoy various events of the Festival.

Visitors can try out ice fishing, and those who are feeling brave can try to catch mountain trout with their bare hands. Along with fun activities and performances, there is also an exhibition of ice sculptures that usually take 20 weeks to prepare. Visitors can sample raw and grilled mountain trout, both of which are delicious.

A foreign visitor said: “Unlike some Korean festivals I have been to, there is a lot to do at this festival. You can ride an ATV or go kart on the ice, go sledding, ice skating, push a metal cart on the ice, or do some regular reel fishing.”

The events that are most popular are ice fishing and bare-handed fishing. For the ice fishing, you are provided with a hole in the ice and a bag for putting your catch for 10,000 won of which you get 10,000-won Love Gift, money you can spend around the festival grounds on food and souvenirs. “If you aren’t Korean, make sure to head to the foreigner only section. It is not only less crowded, but there is English-speaking help and you are given a free fishing pole,” said the foreign visitor.

When you get on the ice, pick a hole, let out enough line to get your lure to the bottom of the river. Then, quickly flick your wrist upwards and let it float back to the bottom. Some persistence is required, he stressed.

Visiting members of the Diplomatic Corps and family members enjoy mountain trouts roasted on coal fire just outside the ice-fishing ground. Aluminum kitchen foil was used to keep the trouts from getting burnt.
Hwacheon is considered a “clean region” where mountain trouts and otters live. Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival is opened in every January under the slogan of “Unfrozen Hearts, Unforgettable Memories” at Hwacheon that has geographical features of the fastest ice freezing in the country because of cold valley wind and clean water.

▲The visiting diplomats walk on the snow for Gamseong Village of Lee Oisoo

This is a unique theme experience festival full with good shows and 40 or about various experience programs, such as ice sledding, snow sledding, snow sculpture and ice soccer, Sancheoneo experience programs combined with the image of Hwacheon that has clean natural environment with the first grade clean water in Bukhangang (river) for catching Sancheoneo by hand, Sancheoneo fishing on the ice to catch the fish easily and enjoy the fishing by everybody, breaking the ice with 40cm thickness and above and looking at Sancheoneo in the deep water for your exciting play available for experiencing at Hwacheon only and heart-warm memory in winter.

Winter Sancheoneo! Sancheoneo Fishing! To mention about ice fishing, you need to catch at least one Sancheoneo. It is an elegant fish underneath ice out of comparison to the other fishes due to moderate size and beautiful shape.

Left: Visitors pass through the colorfully lit ice tunnel. Right: You can also enjoy a 'sky ride' down the river.
Sancheoneo is hard to catch as it is rare but everyone can catch one or two Sancheoneo at Hwacheon with somewhat good luck and knack since 32 or 3 tons of fresh Sancheoneo are being put just under the fishing place every day for visitors for Sancheoneo festival. It is just the reason why a child or young girl without fishing experience is indulged in Sancheoneo ice fishing.

이경식 기자  edt@koreapost.com

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