Diving deep into the ice

World December 24, 2017 12:30

By The Nation

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As temperatures fall well below zero in most of South Korea, the mountainous town of Hwacheon prepares to host its annual ice-fishing festival.

Organised by the Nara Foundation, the festival was once touted by CNN as one of the “Seven Wonders of Winter” and this year runs from January 6 to 28 in and around Hwacheon Stream, 120 kilometres northeast of Seoul.

As many as one million people will head to the town, which has a population of 27,000, to drop a line through a hole in the ice and catch “sancheoneo” – a species of trout that lives only in the very freshest of water.

Dressed in T-shirts and shorts, visitors will jump into the icy water to catch fish with their bare hands as the mercury plummets to a low of -10 degrees Celsius.

The festival’s success can be put down to two factors: first that the rivers freeze earliest in Hwacheon and second, the well-preserved nature that the sancheoneo inhabit.

Launched in 2003, the festival has retained the title of South Korea’s most representative festival for the fourth consecutive year. It has drawn more than one million tourists, including foreign visitors, for 11 years in a row, joining the list 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.