Defectors from North warm to winter festival

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Defectors from North warm to winter festival

It’s rare for North Korean defectors and the South Korean military to be sharing the same billing at a festival.
At the four-day Goseong Myeongtae and Winter Ocean Festival starting Feb. 21, you can catch Pyeongyang Minjok Yaesuldan, a troupe of Korean singers and dancers made up exclusively of escapees from the North.
They’ll be performing songs and dances popular in the North.
South Korean military personnel will be involved in a talent contest during the same festival.
The festival, which takes places in Goseong, Gangwon, is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
It takes its inspiration from myeongtae, or Alaskan pollack, a fish that’s especially popular in the winter.
In addition to dancing North Koreans and singing South Korean soldiers, the festival promises a traditional thanksgiving to the gods of the sea for past and future harvests from the oceans.
There will also be a military band, a fireworks show from the fishing boats, a boat race and a B-Boy break dance show.
Winners of the singing competition can take off with a Matiz, a compact car from GM Daewoo; a washing machine, or a less glamorous, but just as useful, vacuum cleaner.
Other activities include barehanded fishing for Alaskan pollack in a pool, a quiz, making a tower out of Alaskan pollack, family fishing and free rides on boats.
However, please note that the myeongtae used at the festival is not Korean, say festival organizers.
Because the fish is so rare off the Korean coast these days, the committee has imported stock from Japan, China and Russia.
Apparently, rising ocean temperatures have forced the fish north to colder waters.
In the early 1980s, more than 130,000 tons of Alaskan pollack were caught per year in South Korean waters, according to the Gangwon Provincial Government East Sea Rim Branch.
The catch continued to drop dramatically. In 2002, only 200 tons were caught, in 2006, only six tons, and last year, 600 kilograms.
There is a story that during the Joseon Dynasty a top official in Hamgyeong Province, now in North Korea, was posted to Myeongcheon County.
After finishing breakfast, he asked for the name of the fish he had eaten. A local told him that it was caught by a fisherman called Tae from Myeongcheon County. Hence the name Myeongtae.


By Lee Ho-jeong Staff Reporter [ojlee82@joongang.co.kr]

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