The tourism industry is often called ‘an industry without a chimney’. It means, it does not have factories but has an effect much like ‘an industry with a chimney’. The countries where the tourism industry is most famous are France and Italy. The number of foreign tourists who visit these countries for their cultural property results in a huge number every year. On the other hand, the number of foreign tourists who visit cultural property of Korea is not very high. What differentiates the tourism industry of France and Italy from that of Korea?
Current Tourism Industry of Korea
The number of foreigners who enter Korea is increasing every year. Statistically, last year the number of foreigners who enter Korea was 9,794,796. These people cannot all be deemed as tourists, because it includes foreign workers and international students. Therefore less than 9,794,796 of foreigners are tourists. Among these tourists, their form of tourism is mostly shopping and beauty. Therefore, many tourists visit Myeongdong. Recently, the number of foreign tourist is also increasing in Gangnam. In Myeongdong, there are many foreign tourists whose purpose of visiting Korea is shopping. In Gangnam, there are many foreign tourists whose purpose is beauty According to the Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Hana Tour’s 2010 statistics, ‘the most popular shopping place for Japanese and Chinese tourists’ is Myeongdong In 2010, the number of foreign tourists who visited Korea for plastic surgery was 20 million. And this statistic includes not only Japanese and Chinese tourists, but also American and Russian tourists. According to The New York Times, 30% of plastic surgery patients in Seoul are Chinese. Gangnam is one of the most crowded places for tourists because of its reputation for plastic surgery.
As mentioned above, the tourism industry has an effect much like ‘an industry with a chimney’ but does not cost too much. So it can be called ‘effective’. Shopping and beauty are supporting Korea’s tourism industry. According to the Korea Tourist Service, asking foreign tourists why you visit Korea, 70% of them answer because of shopping and beauty. Indeed shopping and beauty are the main products of Korea’s tourist industry. It also means Korea’s tourist industry is concentrated not only on cultural property but also on shopping and beauty But shopping and beauty are not blamed for the current situation. Gyeingju, where the Silla Dynasty’s remains are well preserved, Jeollanam-do dolmen remains are famous among people. Then why are Korea’s cultural properties not getting foreign tourists’ attention?
There are two reasons.
First of all, foreigners are not accustomed to Korea’s cultural property. Namely, they do not know Korea’s cultural property. There are many other countries’ cultural properties that also attract many foreign tourists like The Eiffel Tower in France, The Colosseum in Italy, and The Catholic Church in Vatican. Then why do they attract so many foreign tourists unlike Korea’s cultural properties? Foreigners have heard about or have seen more than once, The Eiffel Tower, Colosseum and Vatican through TV, books and movies. Through the media these cultural properties are always expressed positively. Therefore The Eiffel Tower, The Colosseum and The Vatican are not just cultural properties but symbols of an advanced culture.
Secondly, Korea’s transportation system is unfamiliar to foreign tourists. To visit Gyeingju and Jeollanam-do, they need to use tour buses or trains. Some cultural properties are located in Seoul and are easy to approach by bus and subway. So there are some foreign tourists who are visiting cultural properties in Seoul. For example, many foreign tourists visit Gyeongbokgung (Palace). Also in Namsangol Traditional Korean Village, many foreign tourists come to feel the traditional Korean atmosphere. The Transportation system in Seoul is well known to foreign tourists and easy for them to use. For example, subway stations, which many foreign tourists use, like Express Bus Terminal Station, Myeong-dong Station, and Euljiro 1(il)-ga Station the information is announced in English, Chinese, and Japanese. However, outside of Seoul it is not convenient for foreign tourists. Surely, foreign language announcement is lacking and transportation systems are not easy for foreign tourists. There is a railroad ticket called ‘Rail lo’, which is similar to eurail pass, and foreigners can use ‘Rail lo’. However, almost every foreign tourist does not know about it.
France and Italy’s features…
France and Italy are countries famous for their cultural properties.
Let’s take a look at France. France has many cultural properties. Surely there are many cultural properties in Korea. But unlike that of Korea’s cultural properties, France’s are well known to foreigners. In the case of The Triumphal Arch and The Eiffel Tower, foreigners have heard about or have seen them at least once in a book, in a movie or on TV.
Now let’s find the reason why the tourism industry in Italy has developed. First of all, there are many ancient remains in Italy. Rome, as the capital of Italy, functions as the birthplace of history education. More than 80%of Italy’s tourism industry account for cultural properties relevant to history. Also when you are outside of Rome, there are completely different building forms, urban forms, and natural landscapes. So you can feel that you are in different country.
Lastly, there is a common thing between France and Italy. France and Italy are the countries where many foreign tourists visit the cultural properties. They have a transportation system that is convenient for foreign tourists. France and Italy belong to The European Union, and everybody knows this. Also everyone knows that when you visit a country that belongs to The European Union you can use one railroad ticket called Eurail Pass. It is convenient, because all of the European countries are connected by the railroad and it is easy for foreign tourists to make a reservation. Also the Eurail pass is well publicized to foreign tourists. When you search Eurail pass on the internet, you can find many sites which provide an explanation in Korean and in other languages as well. Because of such a convenient transportation system, many backpacking tourists visit these countries.
How to develop our tourism industry
It is absurd to make cultural properties to be like France. Also it is absurd suggest changing the climate or natural landscape to be like Italy. First of all, let’s think about the two reasons why there are not many foreign tourists in Korea to visit cultural properties.
The first reason is that Korea’s cultural properties are not well known to foreign tourists. However you do not need to worry about this too much because K-pop is popular all over the world. At the word, ‘K-pop’, some people may think of Korean music because of the “Gangnam Style syndrome”. But actually ‘K-pop’ does not just mean Korean music. It also means Korean drama. As one of the genres in Korean drama, historical plays are popular in foreign countries. From the past popular Korean historical play Daejanggeum to the present popular Korean historical play The Faith, historical plays have been popular with foreign countries. With these Korean dramas, we can expect that Korean cultural properties are going to be familiar to foreigners.
The second reason is that Korea’s transportation system is unfamiliar to foreign tourists. To solve this, we should refer to the Eurail pass system. ‘Rail lo’ is a railroad ticket similar to eurail pass. ‘Rail lo’ is available to not only Koreans, but also foreigners up to 25 years of age. By this ticket, people can take all route of Mugunghwa and Saemaeul train. However as mentioned above, public relations of ‘Rail lo’ are insufficient. On the ‘Rail lo’ official website there is no foreign language information. Maybe it is because foreign tourists’ demands are low. However we cannot just wait until the demands increase. We should attempt to increase the demands. Therefore public relations of ‘Rail lo’ are needed. To publicize ‘Rail lo’, the government’s effort is needed. Offering brochures in English, Chinese, and Japanese and so on at the airport is one of the solutions. Recently, many people are traveling by reading other people’s blogs. So asking foreign tourists who used ‘Rail lo’ to write about ‘Rail lo’ on their blogs may also be a solution.
Korea’s cultural properties are not inferior to France and Italy’s cultural properties. It is sorry that, in Korea, tourism based on cultural properties is not well developed. The tourism industry based on shopping and beauty as well as cultural properties are developed, Korea will be the most famous country among tourists all over the world.< 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >