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(Yonhap Interview) Inje Ice Fishing Festival to provide healing, thrilling experience

2018/01/31 09:00

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INJE, South Korea, Jan. 31 (Yonhap) -- The annual ice fishing festival under way in Inje, South Korea, is providing a thrilling and healing experience for urban dwellers who normally have to cope with exhausting daily routines, the governor of Inje County said.

"Urban residents will be given dazzling thrills and the comfort of healing by Mother Nature when they join in the festival," Lee Soon-sun, said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency. "I am very grateful because we have successfully launched the winter festival in its complete form for the first time in four years."

   The county in Gangwon Province had to alter the festival in the past due to drought, warm weather and other unexpected developments.

The Inje Ice Fishing Festival kicked off on the frozen surface of Soyang Lake in Inje on Saturday and will run until Feb. 4 under the slogan "Natural Theme Park."

   It will feature smelt catching, ice sledding, ice soccer, snow sculpture display, food tasting, hoop rolling and other winter activities, and is expected to reinvigorate the economy of the remote mountainous town near the border with North Korea.

The annual winter festival was first held in 1998, but it was canceled in 2015 and 2016 due to a drought and warm weather, which resulted in a lack of ice on the river.

The festival took place last year, but the popular smelt fishing activity was not available due to unseasonably warm weather.

Since the festival's launch, the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival and several other similar events have followed suit across the country, dwarfing the original version.

The Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival, which kicked off in 2003, has since grown to become one of the world's four major winter festivals, along with China's Ice and Snow World, Japan's Sapporo Snow Festival and Canada's Winter Carnival.

Inje Ice Fishing Festival organizers said they will endeavor to recover the glory of the past, although it has for the moment been overtaken as the most popular winter festival in the country.

Gov. Lee said the smelt fishing zone on the frozen Soyang Lake will provide tourists with the joy of catching fish with friends, sweethearts and families.

"Many tourists have already flocked to the specially prepared fishing zone to catch smelt during weekends ahead of the official opening of the festival," he said.

The official said organizers have focused on the theme of letting people relax while participating in the festival this year, noting they have prepared scores of events and attractions, including a snow sculpture display zone, an ice maze and even an ice percussion performance, as well as other cultural activities.

Also being prepared is a cartoon cinema for children and a foot bathing facility for visiting families.

"You can release all your stress while joining a variety of activities," the administrator said, noting that as many as 151 teams have applied for the ice soccer tournament.

Hiking a 13-kilometer mountain trail running through white birch trees will serve as a good chance to heal for the participants, he said.

The governor hoped the ongoing festival will help promote the village in the remote mountainous region as an all-season tourist destination, saying his county, which is less an hour's drive from Seoul, boasts great rafting, bungee jumping, survival games and other events for tourists.

Lee said he was pleased the cold weather has helped freeze Soyang Lake making it safe for people to stand on the surface. The county said it has measured the average thickness of the ice at 30 centimeters.

"I hope people will be able to wash away exhaustion and stress by enjoying the Inje festival taking place on the huge 33,000-square-meter ice field," he said.

Lee Soon-sun, governor of Inje County, speaks during an interview with Yonhap News Agency at his office on Jan. 30, 2018. (Yonhap) Lee Soon-sun, governor of Inje County, speaks during an interview with Yonhap News Agency at his office on Jan. 30, 2018. (Yonhap)