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Gangwon's snow, ice festivals endangered by unseasonably warm winter

All News 13:05 January 08, 2020

SEOUL, Jan. 8 (Yonhap) -- Unseasonably warm winter weather is wreaking havoc for the organizers of various ice and snow festivals set to begin later this month in the mountainous northeastern province of Gangwon.

Traditionally, Gangwon, located east of Gyeonggi Province, which surrounds Seoul, is a mecca of winter sports and snow and ice themed festivals, due to its frigid winter weather.

This winter, however, an extended spell of unseasonably warm weather has hit the province hard, embarrassing the organizers of wintertime festivals, including the Hwacheon Sancheoneo (Mountain Trout) Ice Festival.

Civil servants work to prevent rain from flowing into the ice fishing site of the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival in Hwacheon, Gangwon Province, on Jan. 7, 2020. (Yonhap)

According to the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA), daily lows in Gangwon have ranged from 2 C to 8 C, with the daily high temperature rising to 9 C in some regions of the province on Wednesday.

The temperatures are about 10 C above the province's 30-year average for January, the KMA noted.

Adding to the woes of festival organizers, heavy rain of 30 to 120 millimeters has soaked the province in recent days, putting festival features made of ice and snow at risk of melting.

In Hwacheon, about 120 kilometers northeast of Seoul, county government officials have been making all-out efforts to preserve the ice on the ice fishing venue of the 2020 Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival ahead of its formal opening slated for Saturday.

The ice fishing festival was originally scheduled to kick off last Saturday but was delayed by one week due to the warm conditions.

On Tuesday, about 500 civil servants in Hwacheon were mobilized to prevent rain from flowing into the festival's ice fishing site by using drainage pumps and other tools.

Festival organizers had planned to create about 20,000 fishing holes on a frozen river covering an area about the size of 26 soccer fields, with about 200 tons of "sancheoneo," a species of trout that only lives in very clean fresh water, to be released during the festival.

County officials have stacked plastic and sandbags around the ice fishing site. They also covered ice sculptures for display in a park during the ice fishing festival.

Ice melts at the venue of an ice fishing festival in Hongcheon, Gangwon Province, amid unusually warm winter weather on Jan. 7, 2020. (Yonhap)

A similar ice fishing festival being prepared in the county of Hongcheon, 100 km east of Seoul -- the Hongcheon Ggong Ggong Festival -- is also in trouble.

Ice on the Hongcheon River, the festival venue, was about 20 centimeters thick until recently, but its depth has now been reduced to 3 to 5 cm after rainfall this week. The festival was originally scheduled to open last Friday but has also been postponed by a week.

Festival organizers said they will instead increase the number of indoor fishing sites and venues for bare-hand fishing.

The unusually warm winter and dearth of snow has also beleaguered the organizers of the Mount Taebak Snow Festival scheduled to kick off in the city of Taebaek, about 270 km east of Seoul, on Friday.

Municipal officials have already covered 55 snow sculptures being created at Taebaeksan National Park with plastic sheeting, and snow sculpture artists have suspended their work there.

Ice sculptures to be displayed during the Mount Taebak Snow Festival in Taebaek, Gangwon Province, are covered with plastic sheeting amid rainfall on Jan. 7, 2020. (Yonhap)

"We're embarrassed at the rainfall ahead of the opening of the snow festival. But we're awaiting good news soon as snow is forecast for next week," a Taebaek municipal official said.

The 2020 PyeongChang Trout Festival began late last month in PyeongChang, about 180 km east of Seoul, but its organizers have decided to suspend the operation of its ice fishing site until Friday because of the warm weather.

ycm@yna.co.kr
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