The ‘Extreme South’ Yellowtail Festival, which runs from Nov. 7 to Nov. 10 is a very popular festival at which the organizers take great pains to make each year a creative, unique event – something for travelers, fishermen, foodies, and locals.
Try catching – barehanded – one of two dozen or so yellowtails (bangeo, in Korean) that are released into a large, knee-deep, pool of seawater. Grab a pair of waders and give it a shot. These fish are extremely agile, so it’s a challenge to successfully grab one. You get to keep your catch. This is held daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Days 2 through 4 but starts at 1 p.m. on the first day.
Your options for food, too, are not limited to just yellowtail. There is a seafood collection experience program which lets visitors catch their own shellfish, crab, and the like… and then roast them themselves at a specially set-up cooking area. Or try some of Jeju’s other special dishes at the festival, including galchi jorim (cutlass fish boiled in soy sauce and spices).
There will be educational programs including exhibitions about the local ecosystem, its history, culture etc., and a demonstration of the production of fishing tools. The festival will start with a gut, or traditional rite for the safety of fishermen and female divers. There will also be a daily farmer’s market with great deals on seafood, meat, produce, and more.
The Yellowtail amberjack is one of three subspecies is the Asian yellowtail found in Jeju waters. It is a relatively large fish which can grow to 180cm and weigh 20 kilos. It lives in subtropical waters and prefer rocky reefs and kelp beds. These are exactly the conditions around Jeju Island and Mara Island.
They feed on another fish famous in Jeju dishes – the jaridom, or spotted fin puller. The yellowtail migrate here in the winter. They come all the way from the Russian peninsula of Kamchatka, down the west coast of Japan, and end up in Jeju waters after a journey of many thousands of kilometers.
In fact, there are a couple of other yellowtail festivals found in Japan, but these tend to be later in the season than Jeju. The two festivals are in the village of Noto, Ishikawa prefecture, and on Sado Island, Niigata prefecture, which are along the Japanese west coast yellowtail migration route.
During the festival, there are many nearby sites to visit, but in keeping with the spirit of the festival, visitors can take a ferry straight from Moseulpo Port and explore Mara Island. This small island is 11-km south of Jeju and Korea’s most southern point. If the weather is good, there are hourly departures from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. but it’s best to call ahead and reserve a ticket. The phone number for the Samyeongho Ferry is 064-794-3500. Round trip tickets are 14,000 won for adults, 7,000 won for kids under the age of 12. Jeju residents get a 3,000 won discount.
Moseulpo Port is about an hour’s drive from Jeju City. If you are taking public transportation, catch the Pyeonghwa-ro bus, now bus #750, from Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal and get off at Moseulpo Port. Buses depart every 10 to 20 minutes and a one-way ticket costs 3,000 won.
The festival Web site (in Korean) has a complete list of events for all four days. It is www.bangeofestival.com.