▲ Right, Oh Jisu brandishes corvina on a line during the third annual Chujado Yellow Corvina Festival where attendees could try their hand at stringing the fish together. Photo by Chris Moule. Left, photo courtesy Jeju Photojournalists' Association
Travel north of Jeju Island by ferry for about an hour and you’ll come upon a cluster of islands, four of which are inhabited and the other 38 not. This is, collectively, Chujado. Had you made this seaward journey sometime between July 23 and 25, you’d have found the people of Chujado involved in a rather extravagant celebration of a fish called the yellow corvina — a fish to which the Chujado economy is firmly hooked.
The Chujado Yellow Corvina Festival, now in its third year, is an annual event put on by the Chuja-myeon Festival Promotion Committee. The celebration’s main purpose was to draw attention to Chujado’s newly emerging brand, Chujado Yellow Corvina, said Jee Seung Il, the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province Special Assistant for Chuja.
Some of the festivities for celebrating both Chujado and the yellow corvina included weaving dehydrated corvina on a line, fishing with dragnet, rowing on a barge, catching corvina bare-handedly, a performance by a marine band, a parade of ships, a tour of a naval vessel, as well as a special ceremony performed to bring luck for fishing. There were also taste sampling opportunities, such as salted and fermented anchovies, various types of corvina, including raw corvina prepared straight from the ocean.
According to Jee, Korea’s Ministry of Knowledge Economy has dubbed Chujado “a special area for the yellow corvina,” and “between 70 to 80 percent of the island’s economic income is generated by the yellow corvina.” Until 2006, since no corvina processing plants existed on Chujado to deal with the fish once it was caught, Chuja fishermen sent their catch to the mainland for such processing along with the economic activity generated by that end of the business.
Even at that time, Chujado’s catches accounted for 35 percent of Korea’s total corvina. Since 2006, six processing plants have opened and HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) certification has been obtained for them; consequently, the income on Chujado spawned by yellow corvina has increased from 35 billion won in 2007, to 40 billion in 2008, to about 52 billion in 2009. Jee says these festivals are very advantageous to Chujado because they bring awareness to not only the yellow corvina, but the brand Chujado Yellow Corvina, thus hopefully improving Chujado’s income further.
Accordingly, Chuja spares no expense to honor the fish. The total cost of the festival was roughly 200 million won. About 31.5 million of this total was funded by Jeju City—a decision made by the Jeju Festival Committee and grounded, said Jee, on their assessment that Chujado’s Yellow Corvina Festival was “one of the best festivals.” The remainder of the tab was paid for by Chujado Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives, Chujado Yellow Corvina Distribution and Processing Council, Chujado’s Owner of Fishing Boats Council, and the Korea Pro Fishing Association, among others.
The price tag for the festival is steep, given that the fixed number of seats on Chujado-bound ferries seriously limits the number of tourists that could possibly attend the festival. Despite that the number of daily return trips from Jeju to Chuja-do was doubled, from two to four, during the festivals duration, Jee said the maximum number of possible tourists was roughly 2,000. To justify the expenses, he said that “we need to really focus on these tourists, to promote our brand.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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