Creative Tourism Industry is the Answer
Charm Lee, Former President of the Korea Tourism Organization
The tourism industry can play a key role in leading the creative economy of Korea. One of the more conspicuous areas that the tourism industry can contribute to the Korean economy is through employment. When we invest one billion won in industries, the manufacturing industry creates 24 positions, the IT industry 10, but the tourism industry can make up to 50 positions on average. Koreans like having fun and are good at it by nature, factors that create an environment very suitable for developing tourism industry.
I think the essence of the attractive energy of Koreans can be summarized by spirit, pleasure, and a warmheartedness. The mountains, nature, and food culture of Korea are filled with energy that enhances the spirit and soothes sorrow. The Korean drinking custom which leads to second and third rounds and the Psy’s “Kangnam Style” are reflections of Korean pleasure. The sentimental culture which cherishes warmhearted acts is the generator of Korean dramas and the driving force of economic development. Korea is unique especially in the cooperation of spirit, pleasure, and warmheartedness. However, there is also a demerit in that this rarely lasts over a long period of time. I think the continuation of such creativity is only possible when the particular energy of Koreans is set free.
The hidden champions of Germany and Silicon Valley in the U.S. are based on cultures which absorb new ideas through travel, tourism, and entertainment. It’s not by chance that out of 80 million Germans, 78 million travel abroad yearly and Silicon Valley is located near Las Vegas and San Francisco. The number of Korean domestic and international travelers needs to be increased and there must be a vision for the number of Chinese traveling to Korea to increase from the current figure of three million to ten times that.
The tourism business has a special characteristic in that it is easy to open a business with just ideas. We need to foster tourism venture businesses like the ‘shepherding school’ of Namhae and ‘Moolaegil’ of Chunchun, which allows tourists to build their own canoes and ride them. This should be accompanied by bold deregulation which will encourage experimental trials. A disappointing example of improper regulation is the innovative food project which is called “Food Truck.” Even though some people wanted to make it easy to run this business, government investigating councils limited the areas in which they could operate to resort areas. While I was working for the Korean Tourism Organization, I tried to encourage home-stays for foreigners to ease the problem of insufficient accommodations. Six hundred households applied for it, but only thirty registered. What I found out was that city officials asked the families to get the agreements from neighbors, which was too inconvenient.
Korea’s natural beauty, culture, K-pop, and shopping are enormous tourism resources which attract foreigners with abundant inspiration. Dongdaemoon fashion town is open 24 hours a day and Korea is the only place in the world where we can purchase designer level clothes at 3 o’clock in the morning. I hope Korea is put on the list of countries that people want to visit by more and more people.
Translation by Kang, Soo Jung
President of Salt&Light