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Wintertime fun fill tranquil towns

Pocheon, Hwacheon beckon travelers with icy festivals

Jan. 13, 2024 - 16:01 By Lee Si-jin

Sanjeong Lake's iconic rubber duck train (Korea Tourism Organization)
A visitor rides a vintage Korean-style sled at Sanjeong Lake in Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province, Monday. (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald)

POCHEON, Gyeonggi Province -- January may still be a time of hibernation for bears, snakes, frogs and others, but that is not so the case for some villages in northern areas of South Korea.

Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province, home to the Republic of Korea V Corps, is seldom visited by outsiders other than those visiting to see their friends, sons or brothers serving their mandatory military duty.

However, things change in the winter months when this quiet locale becomes crowded with people from around the country seeking wintertime fun, filling the villages with the noises of car engines, children's squeals and screams of delight.

Sanjeong Lake is the most popular tourist attraction in Pocheon, drawing more than 2 million travelers every winter. When the lake freezes, it becomes an iconic winter playground not only for children, but also for adults indulging in childhood memories.

Visitors may not see any wild ducks on the lake in winter, but there are still many yellow rubber ducks gliding across the frozen lake, pulled by tricycles.

A mother takes her daughter on a tricycle sled ride at Sanjeong Lake on Monday. (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald)

Riding a tricycle is a fun way to enjoy Sanjeong Lake’s Sleigh Festival.

Though many mothers and fathers pull the sleighs while taking videos of their children as they scream with joy, some youngsters entertain their parents by switching roles.

Visitors can either roam around different areas of the square-shaped natural ice rink or make Instagram updates with cute rubber duck sleds on the frozen Sanjeong Lake.

For those who wish to experience vintage Korean-style sleds, go to the oval-shaped area at the center of the lake.

Riders can turn, drift and brake with just the two wooden sticks with spikes in their hands.

“My friend and I posed next to our scarfed rubber duck. They are so cute! It was my first time riding a tricycle on a frozen lake. It is something that I will definitely recommend to my friends in Taiwan,” a Taiwanese tourist surnamed Shih told The Korea Herald on Monday.

“I tried the vintage sled too. But I found it really difficult. It required a lot of energy as well,” said the beaming 23-year-old traveler.

All the winter-themed vehicles can be rented for 30 minutes.

The vintage sled and tricycles are priced at 6,000 won and 7,000 won, respectively.

While renting a tricycle with a Winnie-the-Pooh, penguin or Santa Claus sled is 12,000 won, the yellow rubber duck sled is priced at 15,000 won.

While the Sleigh Festival opened on Dec. 30 last year, the warm weather has kept its iconic rubber duck train out of operation, but this weekend should see the yellow duck train on the ice due to the expected cold wave, according to a festival official on Monday.

“The lake is open in summer, seeking to attract travelers with our floating pedal boats. But the number of winter holidaymakers is unparalleled. We hope to add a festive atmosphere with the nearby restaurants, theme parks and snack shops as well, presenting great winter memories,” the official added.

Meanwhile, every corner of Hwacheon -- a small county located just 25 kilometers south of the inter-Korean border -- is also packed with safety guards and holidaymakers, a different sight than usual.

A panoramic view of the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival in Hwacheon, Gangwon Province. (Korea Tourism Organization)

The annual Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival, which began Jan. 6, beckons people seeking the opportunity to catch “sancheoneo” by either ice fishing or bare-hand fishing.

Sancheoneo is a type of trout that lives in clean, cold water.

Children with eyes fixed on the fishing rod, parents hovering over them and coaching them, can easily be spotted in the frozen areas of the 62,000-square-meter section of Hwacheon Stream

The festival also presents ice football, ice golf, curling, bubble ball suits, sleds and bobsleds to entertain visitors of all ages.

Hwacheon’s winter event was named South Korea’s best festival by the Culture Ministry in 2010, drawing more than 1 million visitors for 13 straight years from 2006 to 2019.

People participate in bare-hand fishing at the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival. (Korea Tourism Organization)
Children ice skate at the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival in Hwacheon, Gangwon Province, Monday. (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald)
Visitors enjoy trout fishing at the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival. (Korea Tourism Organization)

Tickets can be bought at the site as well as online at the ticketing website Interpark.

Detailed information about the festival can be found at the Sancheoneo Ice Festival’s official website,