Some 60 ambassadors, senior diplomats and their spouses visited the 2014 Hwacheon Mountain Trout Festival and Ice Fantasia on Jan. 17, 2014, including Ambassadors Konstantin Vnukov of the Russian Federation, Ngovi Kitau of Kenya, Mohamed Salim Alharvy of Oman, Kaman Singh Lama of Nepal, Petar Andonov of Bulgaira, Rohana Ramli of Malasia (lady ambassador), Ramzi Teymurov of Azerbaijanm (charge d’affaires) and Branko Marjanac of Serbia (charge d’affaires), most of them accompanied by their spouses.
They rode an icebreaker steel boat (nay, a 'water breaker' because the Paroho Lake didn't freeze on that particular day) to the Peace Dam, saw a video at the K-Water Museum on top of the Dam concerning the history of the Dam, tolled the Peace Bell of the World and shook hands with the Nobel Peace Prize laureates (portrait paintings with real-size molded hands), who included former President Mikhail Gorbachev of the Russian Federation, the late former President Kim Dae-jung and Independence Fighter Madam Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar.
Due to the unusually mild temperatures in the region where in other years the mercury hit somewhere around minus 17 to over 20 degrees centigrade, the Paroho Lake did not freeze in spite of the fact that the coldest month of the year, January, was well past its middle point.
The icebreaker had no ice to break and so it just broke the water and carried the passengers (members of the Seoul Diplomatic Corps) to the shore near the Peace Dam.
It was no summer but the ambassadors and the senior diplomats refused to stay in the warm cabin of the boat but mostly stayed outside on the decks of the boat enjoying the winter scenery of the shores of the island inside the lake as well as the landscapes surrounding it.
It presented an entirely different view of the shores and island from that to which one is accustomed to in the summer, spring and autumn seasons.
Almost everyone kept shooting the lakeside landscape scenes with their mobile phone cameras.
At the K-Water Museum, the guests were invited to view videos telling the history and role of the Peace Dam. It showed when the construction started by former President Chun Doo-hwan (for political expediency), how the construction was stopped by the liberal governments after Chun, then how, ironically, the Dam was further reinforced by the liberal successors, namely Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. (See further details at the end of this Article.)
“That is why,” he said, “we are planning to build a World Peace Memorial Tower and a Memorial Peace Park here to console the souls of the fallen youths of both sides from various different countries of the world.” (See full details toward the end of this Article.)
In response, Ambassador Konstantin Vnukov of the Russian Federation, dean of the visiting members of the Seoul Diplomatic Corps, said, “For us, diplomats, the Hwacheon County, which more than 60 years ago was the fiercest battle ground of the Korean War, nowadays is becoming a Center of Peace and Cooperation. Peace Bell of the World proves it.
“Another outstanding feature of the leaders and people of Hwacheon is your famous hospitality which always warms us despite the cold weather. Many thanks!” (See further details of the return speech toward the end of this Article.)
Following the briefing session of the Peace Dam, the ambassadors and other senior diplomats were invited to toll the Peace Bell of the World with prayers for their own good health and good luck as well as for the peace in Korea and the world.
Some of the visitors also shook hands with the world-famous personalities, winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, who included former Presidents Mikhail Gorbachev of the Russian Federation and Kim Dae-jung of Korea and Independence Movement Leader Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar.
Some had luck to catch some such as Charge d’Affaires and Mrs. Ramzi Teymurov of Azerbaijan, Defense Attache Brig. Gen. and Mrs. Angel Gonzalez Castillo of Mexico, Defense Attache Col. Emmanuel Fernandez of Spain, Miss Ramli (daughter of the ambassador of Malaysia), Seoul Bureau Chief Wang Gang of the Legal Daily of China and Managing Editor Chang Ik-kyung of WOW TV (TV arm of the leading Korean-language business daily, Hankuk Kyungje). Others left the fishing ground empty-handed. However, they were all treated to roast mountain trouts on barbeque grills inside a transparent make-shift hut.
Toward the end of the tour, the visiting diplomats were asked if they would wish to see the ‘Transparent World of Ice” (or an Ice Palace) as it was well past evening. They said OK and the tour to the ‘Transparent World’ took place.
If they had left without seeing the ‘Transparent World,’ however, they would have greatly regretted it because the place, after all, turned out to be one of the top attractions of the Hwacheon Mountain Trout Festival.
The Transparent World had the Seven Wonders of the World and many more famed architectural structures built solely with ice blocks. There were some extra ‘Wonders of the World’ such as the Namdaemun (South) Gate in Seoul. Anyone visiting the Hwacheon Mountain Trout Festival missing to see this Ice Palace is missing really something.
The architectural splendors of the world in ice included the Mounted Pyotr (Peter) the Great of Russia who established the Saint Petersburg, the Cathedral of Basil the Blessed on the Red Square of Moscow of the Russian Federation, the Temple of Heaven of China in Beijing constructed in 15th century, the Colosseum of Italy built in 70AD by Emperor Vespasianus, the Seokkulam Grotto of the Silla Kingdom (National Treasure 24 of Korea), the Golden Temple of India of the 16th century built by Guru Nanak and the Cuenca of Spain of the 12th century.
Excerpts from the welcome speech by Mayor Chung Gap-cheol:
His Excellency Ambassador Konstantin Vnukov of the Russian Federation, Excellencies and Madams, Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post, Chairman Lee Tae-Ho of the Hwacheon County Council, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Hwacheon County adjoining the Demilitarized Zone on the north was the fiercest battle ground of the Korean War symbolizing the trauma, the division of the country and the confrontation between the two sides. However, we have been developing the region into the center of peace and cooperation not only for Korea but also for the peace of the world.
On the top of the Peace Dam which Your Excellencies and Madams will visit this afternoon stands the Peace Bell of the World cast with 37.5 tons of expended bullets and shells donated by a total of over 30 countries of the world, which have suffered from conflicts like Korea.
Tolling the Bell of the World Peace, you may pray for the peace of the world and also for the happiness of your family.
The Hwacheon County is a place where a total of over 100,000 young people were victimized during the Korean War for the reason that they had ideologies that were different from one another.
That is why we are planning to build a World Peace Memorial Tower and a Memorial Peace Park here to console the souls of the fallen youths of all sides. When they are dedicated, I would like to invite Your Excellencies and Madams again to share the lofty ideas.
The Hwacheon Mountain Trout Festival which Your Excellencies and Madams are attending here today was initiated in 2003 to revitalize the local economy and to advertise the Hwacheon Country as the cleanest region of the Republic of Korea. Beginning with 2006, the visiting Korean and international tourists totaled one million, which has made the Festival one of the Four Top Winter Festivals of the World.
In particular, CNN introduced the Hwacheon Mountain Trout Festival as one of the Seven Winter Wonders of the World in 2011, which made the Festival rank among the top winter festivals of the world.
Furthermore, in September last year, the International Festival and Events Association at its meeting in Pittsburg in the United States selected the Hwacheon County as one of the World Winter Festival Cities and the Central Government of the Republic of Korea recently selected the Hwacheon Mountain Trout Festival as the Representative Festival of the Republic of Korea for 2014.
The Hwacheon Mountain Trout Festival has a total of over 60 different interesting programs, which include Mountain Trout Ice Fishing, Ice Fun Park, Snow Fun Park, Transparent Plaza, 3-Dimensional Plaza, Michelangelo Exhibition Hall, Seondeung (Angels Lamp) Street, and Russian Ice Dancing. Thus, the Hwacheon Mountain Trout Festival is not only a winter festival but a general cultural festival of the winter season.
Due to the limited time, I am unable to ask Your Excellencies and Madams to take part in all the programs of the Festival. However, I wish that you will all have a memorable experience at the Festival and enjoy the warm hospitality of the people of the Hwacheon County.
I wish the best of health and luck to all the guests and their families and wish you all a very Happy New Year. Thank you!
Return speech by Ambassador Konstantin Vnukov of Russia:
I have been to Hancheon many times in all four seasons of the year, but hundreds of thousands of people from Korea and abroad can agree that the best timing for visiting Hwacheon is undoubtedly winter because of the world-famous Hwacheon Mountain Trout Festival.
The leadership and the people of the County have all the reasons to be proud and happy as due to your creativity and efforts over 60 different interesting programs within the framework of the Festival of attracting every year more than one million of visitors of different ages and nations.
For us, diplomats the Hwacheon County which more than 60 years ago was the fiercest battle ground of the Korean War, nowadays is becoming a center of Peace and cooperation. Peace Bell of the World proves it.
Another outstanding feature of the leaders and people of Hwacheon is your famous hospitality which always warms us despite the cold weather. Many thanks!
In a few days our Korean friends and all of us will celebrate the Lunar New Year the year of the Horse. There is a saying in the Eastern countries in this year--Let the Horse bring all of us full success in all the endeavors.
Construction of the Peace Dam started in October 1986 when the general-turned dictatorial former President Chun Doo-Hwan was in power. Chun told the nation, “North Korea is building the Kumgang-san Dam as a means of ‘Flood Offensive’ with a water storage capacity of 20 billion tons which would be enough flood one third of the entire city of Seoul.”
The media drummed up Chun’s announcement and warned, “The 63 Building on Yeoui-do Islet in Seoul would be under the water up to its waist and the National Assembly building would have only its roof above water with the rest submerged in the North Korea-released water. The Chun government widely advertised the ‘urgent need for building the dam’ and raised a total of 66.1 billion won. Construction proceeded at a super-high speed and the Dam was dedicated within one year after the constructed started.
At this juncture, the North Korean regime suddenly stopped building the Kumgang-san Dam rendering Chun’s construction of the Peace Dam ill-justified. Then the public opinion in South Korea turned against Chun and the opposition camp charged Chun with a fraudulent maneuver to thwart the people’s attention from their criticism against the maladministration of the Chun government.
In the summer of 1999, however, there was a heavy rain fall of 700 to 800 millimeters which threatened the safety of Hwacheon Hydraulic Power-generating Dam. The Hwacheon Dam, however, was saved from collapse thanks to the flood controlling role played by the Peace Dam. If there had been no Peace Dam, the flood would have swept away the Hwacheon Dam and all other dams along the Northern Han River downstream would have been washed away.
Even without North Korea’s ‘Flood Offensive’ from its Kumgang-san Dam, the flood could have turned the entire city of Seoul into a large pool of muddy water. Such a situation also developed earlier in 1996, but nobody dared to praise the successful containment role played by the Peace Dam because it was originally built by the unpopular dictatorial government of President Chun.
Then North Korea resumed building its Kumgang-san Dam in the early part of 2002 and releasd muddy water down the river of the Hwacheon County at the rate of 206 tons per second. North Korea sent a total of 350 million tons of water for 19 days in a row, which even made the Peace Dam dangerous. This was during the rule of the liberal government of President Kim Dae-jung (DJ) who was lenient and sympathetic toward North Korea. The DJ government asked the North Korean regime to control the release of water from its Kumgang-san Dam, but the North Korean regime completely ignored DJ’s request. President Kim DJ called a National Security Conference, and decided to reinforce the Peace Dam.
When the expansion construction of the Peace Dam was over, President Roh Moo-hyun did not attend the dedication ceremony and even the prime minister, who had been scheduled to attend, did not actually show up at the ceremony. Instead, the dedication ceremony was attended by the president of the K-Water and the director of the Wonju City National Land Management Institute.
Neither President Kim Dae-jung nor President Roh Moo-hyun had ever visited the Peace Dam.
The dictatorial President Chun Doo-hwan, after retirement, visited the Peace Dam in 2009 many years with an entourage of his military and conservative followers. There was no record of his role in the construction of the Peace Dam. Chun was quoted by the media at the time as saying, “Well, my construction of the Peace Dam has not been fully justified--after all.”
All the same, many people question, even today, the veracity of Chun’s estimation of 20-billion-ton water storage capacity of the North Korean Kumgang-san Dam.
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