Tourism; Korean Tourism: From Zero to Booming Industry in Decades
Just as `diet' or `recreation' are relatively recent concepts, the word ``tourism'' meant nothing to Koreans who lived in the early part of the last century. Amid the extreme poverty and hardship caused by the decades of Japanese colonial rule and the subsequent Korean War, most Koreans' primary objective in life was simply to survive. Naturally, any kind of entertainment or recreation, including traveling for the sake of pleasure, was considered a luxury.
The situation did not improve much until the end of the 1950s when there was virtually nothing to call tourist business or institution in the country. It was only in 1962 that the government began to realize the importance of tourism industry and establish the state-run institution International Tourism Cooperation, currently the Korea National Tourism Organization.
Over the years, the tourism industry has taken on more importance, partly due to the changing global atmosphere. In particular, technological advance and introduction of Internet communication these days are bringing closer people around the globe, both in physical and psychological dimension. It is no surprise that the government has designated tourism, once considered marginal in the national industry, as the major industry of the new era.
Against this background, it will be worthwhile to trace the 38 years of evolution of the Korean National Tourism Organization, since the organization represents the modern history of tourism in Korea.
The 1960s- Birth of Tourism Industry
The International Tourism Cooperation-- which changed its name as Korea National Tourism Corporation in 1986 and again in 1992 as National Tourism Corporation Organization-- was founded on May 26th in 1962. At the time, Korea had basically absent in tourist accommodation and recreation facilities, except only a handful of poorly operated state-run hotels. The need to revamp these facilit es and establish basic tourism institution in the country was growing.
The founding goal of the ITC was to create basic tourism infrastructure in ord r to attract more foreign currency. At the start of the organization, ITC began buyi g the sluggish state-run hotels and tourist shops to make radical reformation on the facilities. Among them are hotels in Haeundae Beach in Pusan, Pulkuksa Temple in Kyongju, Mt. Sorak in Kangwon province and Sokwipo city in Cheju Island. Upon taking up these facilities, ITC invested additional 2.5 billion won to revamp them and rationalize the managing system.
In 1965, ICT opened Bando Arcade, Korea's earliest shopping mall in downtown Seoul, while privatizing three state-run hotels in Sokwipo, Kwangju, and Mt. Sorak in an effort to give boost to the burgeoning tourism sector. In 1969, the ICT branch was first set up in Tokyo, marking the first case of Korean tourism office established in overseas country.
In general, the period marks the start of national tourism, where the government taking the lead in establishing the basic framework for the industry. As a result of this effort, the number of foreign tourists first reached the 100,000 level in 1968.
The 1970s- Development of Infrastructure
This is the period when ITC began to put more emphasis on tourism promotion targeting foreign tourists. It invested the profit earned from various tourism usiness such as liquor sale, rental of stores in shopping arcade, and hotel investment, into a series of tourism promotion projects.
Among the projects were to raise Korea's visibility at various international tourism-related institutions, and to step up promotion activities at international airports, seaports and other transportation hubs. A number of tourist offices were set up in cities like Hong Kong, San Francisco, Paris, and Singapore.
At domestic level, ITC worked toward widening tourism information service and improve accommodation and recreational facilities. …