INJE, South Korea, Jan. 20, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- The Inje Icefish Festival, the originator of South Korea's various winter festivities, is just one day away after two years of dormancy due to abnormal weather conditions.
The 10-day annual event, the 17th this year, will be held on the vast frozen Soyang Lake in the country's small town of Inje, 165 kilometers east of Seoul, from Jan. 21-30.
The festival in Gangwon Province could not be held due to an unprecedented drought in 2015 that made rivers dry up and abnormally high temperatures last year that kept the lake from freezing over.
The Inje festival has had significant influence on similar festivals in the country themed around ice and icefishing.
The event was first held on the vast ice field of Soyang Lake in 1998, which freezed more than 30 centimeters thick amid cold waves. Under the ice, smelt, which are called "nymph of the winter" in the country, live. Smelt are a fish species that live in cold water under 10 Celsius, and are most active between December and February.
In the winter, upstream in the Soyang River was usually filled with visitors trying to catch smelt in the past. Local residents began to sell food and fishing gear, which was a starting point for the festival. The county, which at the time considered winter off-season, then developed icefishing into the winter festival.
The festival made great strides year by year, finally becoming a byword for winter events in the country. It became one of three biggest festivals chosen by the government in 2003. The culture ministry also designated the festival as an excellent cultural and tourist event for seven years in a row starting in 2004.
Visitors enjoy catching smelt out of roughly 20-centimeter-wide ice holes and other activities like icefish food tasting, sledding, ice football and ice sledding.
Launched in 2003, the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival in the name sake town, 118 kilometers east of Seoul, which has now become one of the world's four largest winter events, originally benchmarked the Inje festival.
The Inje festival also influenced the birth of winter festivals in the other small towns of PyeongChang, Gapyeong and Hongcheon.
In recent years, however, the opening of the Inje festival was uneasy because of global warming and drought. The county had to delay the festival once this year due to warm weather.
"We'll endeavor to recover the glory of our past, although we lost the title of the best winter festival long time ago," a county official said.