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Feting Jeju's 'harmonious island'[Slideshow] A roundup of this year's Chuja Island Yellow Corvina Festival, June 15-17
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승인 2012.06.19  14:10:26
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From June 15 to 17 around 1,500 people made the trip to Chuja Island to partake in The 5th Chujado Yellow Corvina Festival.

This annual event is organized by the Chuja-myeon (District) Festival Promotion Committee to create awareness of and give outsiders a chance to discover Jeju Special Self-Governing Province’s Chuja Island.

During the festival this sleepy fishing town comes alive to celebrate the yellow corvina, a small fish that brings in large profits to fuel the local economy. Corvina is caught in abundance, with drift gill nets, off the coast of Chujado where cold and warm currents collide. The celebrated fish has a mild, sweet taste and is typically dried, salted, and served whole on a small platter.

The ferry from Jeju to Chuja unloads directly into the harbor and the heart of the festivities, where I was greeted by the hype of a hand-fishing competition, traditional drumming, and the faint smell of drying seaweed.

Over the course of the three-day festival, attendees had a chance to experience how locals make their living through interactive activities such as corvina stringing, drag net fishing, float fishing, and the ultimate crowd pleaser: bare hand fishing.

For 5,000 won children and adults scrambled and splashed through a pool of knee deep water to catch gwangeo (flounder) with their bare hands. For an additional 5,000 won participants could have their catch cleaned and filleted on the spot for a fresh sashimi-style lunch. Locals swapped advice on the best way to corner a fish and shared their success over a meal.

Hand fishing 101, by Stephen Smith
▲ Stephen Smith holds a hand-caught flounder. Photo: Erin Myers

Hand Fishing was clearly the “not to be missed” activity at Chuja’s Yellow Corvina Festival this year. Jostle out others to snatch a slippery fish with your bare hands. Then take a few steps with your catch to have it quickly cleaned, sliced up, and served with lettuce, kimchi and sweet sashimi sauce. Delish! If next year you find yourself wanting to participate, and I wholeheartedly suggest you do, here are a few tips on how you might go about it:

First, steer yourself to the ticket booth and for 5,000 won secure your spot in the show, as well as a sturdy pair of fish gripping gloves. Watch as fishermen unload the live wells of their boat, swooping several net fulls of gwangeo (flounder), a bottom feeding flatfish with two eyes on the same side of its face, into the pool before you. You’ll notice the anticipation arising from the crowd as the elderly man beside you begins frantically briefing you on the best hand fishing strategies. It matters not that you understand a mere five of his 50 Korean words; he’s now your hand fishing coach and you can’t let him down! Finally, it's time: throw on those gloves, jump into the pool, and get ready for some water splashing — kid giggling — lady screaming — fish flopping excitement!


Other entertainment and events included, boat cruises around the island, barge rowing, a ritual for “a big catch of fish” on the pier, and live music in the evening on the main stage for the much anticipated opening ceremony. Performances ranged from belly dance to traditional Korean music and dance.

Following the opening ceremony, the celebration continued well into the night as the shoreline was lit up with fireworks, fishing lanterns, and friendly faces eager to share a snack of dried or raw fish.

In addition to fishing, dance, and food many attendees took advantage of Chuja’s Olle walking trail No. 18-1. This flower lined trek begins on Upper Chuja and passes through six small villages with seaside views of the surrounding islets.

Chuja Island is located between mainland South Korea and Jeju Island. It can be reached on the “Pink Dolphin,” a high speed ferry that runs the roughly 90-minute routes between the two islands for 12,500 won each way.

Chuja Island, dubbed “the harmonious island of the ocean and people,” is composed of four inhabited islands, Upper Chuja, Lower Chuja, Chupdo, Hwaenggando, and 38 uninhabited islets.

From our correspondent
▲ Erin Myers and a new friend dance during the June 15-17 5th Yellow Corvina Festival on Chuja Island, Jeju Special Self-Governing Province. Photo: Erin Myers


Crouched along the outskirts of the traditional drumming circle, capturing images of the vibrantly decorated pungmul (folk music) buk (drum) performance, I was startled when a member of the troupe pulled me into the middle of the show. Camera clutched, I was twirled through the rhythm and song as I marched alongside my new friend.

Impromptu dancing at the opening ceremony of the Chujado Yellow Corvina Festival, reminded me that I was there to do more than simply record images and details of the event. Of equal importance was the opportunity to participate in the unique culture of the island. Whether that meant sharing a plate of raw fish with locals, or learning a new craft; the people of Chujado were generous with tips on which dishes to try, and the best trails to trek.

To anyone seeking a change of pace or scenery, I encourage you to make the ferry ride up to Chuja Island. I hope you, too, might get a chance to experience the kindness of those strangers who quickly became friends.

ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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