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South Korea’s world-renowned ice fishing festival kicks off

South Korea’s world-renowned annual ice fishing festival has kicked off after a three-year break due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nearly 129,000 people braved below freezing temperatures for the 2023 Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival on Saturday, turning out for a chance to catch trout with hooks or even bare hands on a frozen lake close to the inter-Korean border.

Gangwon Province’s county of Hwacheon has seen large crowds of visitors gathering to catch ‘sancheoneo’ mountain trout since the festival was launched 20 years ago.

Participants try to catch the trout through holes cut in the surface of the vast frozen river.

The event has become a favoured celebration for the abundance of trout that floods the northern province at this time of year.

Organisers said they plan to release 171 tonnes of sancheoneo into the frozen river covering 61,054 square meters during this year’s festival. 

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Nation’s best festival

Launched in 2003, the event was chosen as the nation’s best festival by the culture ministry in 2010 and has drawn in more than a million visitors annually from 2006 to 2019.

As well as taking part in fishing, guests also have an opportunity to taste grilled sancheoneo and try out ice football and sledding. 

Organisers will also operate foreigner-only fishing areas, resting and cooking areas, and a prayer room for Muslims.

The festival will continue for 23 days through January 29 with medical teams on alert to ensure the safety of those involved.

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