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Korea targets 16m tourists a year

Publication Date : 29-03-2013


South Korea's tourism sector is targeted for a renewed boost under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s new five-year plan.

With the goal of attracting 16 million foreign visitors to Korea annually by the year 2017, the ministry will implement a number of initiatives, including medical tourism clusters in Daegu and Osong, North Chungcheong Province, designed to utilize the two cities’ infrastructure as government-designated medical clusters.

In its report to President Park Geun-hye on Thursday, the ministry also outlined how it would establish “tour and leisure” towns dedicated to the meeting, incentives, convention and exhibition (MICE) industries.

A medical tourism complex with accommodation as well as health care- and tourism-related facilities will be established near Daegu and Osong, which are already government-designated medical clusters. Medical tourism, alongside the MICE and cruise sectors, will be supported as part of the “comprehensive tourism and leisure industry.”

“Smart Tour Guide”, a smartphone application providing comprehensive tourism information about Korea, will be developed and a special mobile Web service will be provided for Chinese tourists, whose number has been increasing at a remarkable pace.

“We are confident that the plan will have Korea greet 16 million annual tourists in 2017,” a ministry official said.

In order to encourage more Koreans to travel within the country, the government plans to adopt a “substitute holiday” system allowing workers to take an extra day off if a public holiday falls on the weekend. The authorities are also seeking to implement a “cheque vacance” system, a set of travel vouchers that are partly subsidised by the government.

According to the report, “tourist police” composed of police officers with foreign language proficiency dispatched from the National Police Agency will be introduced. These officers will be placed at areas frequented by tourists, such as Namdaemun market, Insa-dong, Dongdaemun, Itaewon and airports to oversee security and prevent overcharging of foreign tourists by taxi drivers and merchants.

“A similar system was adopted in Thailand and received good response. This will assure tourists in Korea that they will be respected and safe,” said Vice Culture and Sports Minister Cho Hyun-jae.

Cultural heritage repatriation

The Cultural Heritage Administration, an affiliate of the ministry, said verification of cultural heritage believed to have been looted and taken overseas was under way.

“We will prioritise which ones should be reclaimed based on the results,” said Kim Jong-jin, a CHA official.

According to the CHA and the Foreign Affairs Ministry, 149,126 artifacts were taken overseas through illegal routes. Only 9,751 of them, or 6.5 per cent, have been repatriated so far.

Meanwhile, a special institution dedicated to preservation of intangible cultural assets will be established to meet the UNESCO standard.

Culture for everyone

The administration will dispatch art instructors to all elementary, middle and high schools in the country by 2017. A special discount programme will be implemented for university students and youths while economically underprivileged people will get vouchers for cultural activities.

“We will make sure that everyone can enjoy culture, leading to a high quality of life,” Cho said.


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