The Korea Herald


S. Korea determined to become tourism powerhouse

Vice Minister Jang Mi-ran seeks to assist and expand more sought-after tourism products and local festivals loved by Koreans

By Lee Si-jin

Published : Dec. 8, 2023 - 15:32

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Jang Mi-ran, the second vice minister of culture, sports and tourism, talks during a press conference on Thursday at the Government Complex Seoul. (MCST) Jang Mi-ran, the second vice minister of culture, sports and tourism, talks during a press conference on Thursday at the Government Complex Seoul. (MCST)

With plans to prepare for the Visit Korea Year 2023-24 campaign, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism is going all out to make Korea another Asian tourism powerhouse and create a more enjoyable tourism environment for domestic holidaymakers.

In a press briefing in Seoul on Thursday, Jang Mi-ran -- the second vice minister of culture, sports and tourism -- expressed high hopes to turn Korea into an appealing destination for both foreigners and locals, exceeding pre-pandemic visitor levels in 2024.

“I engaged in various tourism-related meetings with local governments, agencies and firms to gather perspectives from industry professionals (since my appointment in July), but there were not a lot of unique or special tourism products or festivals,” Jang said in a briefing at the Seoul Government Complex in Jongno-gu, central Seoul.

“It is important to create tourism products that are appealing to locals and approved by them. We are recommending or introducing things if we like them first. I personally felt this applies to tourism as well,” the vice minister told The Korea Herald.

Young tourism major students who share their individual travel experiences on various social media platforms can offer realistic suggestions and showcase the charms of their hometowns, as well as areas of improvement, Jang said. She said she wanted to spend more time with such students to understand the local tourism landscape.

The vice minister emphasized the importance of creating a safer tourism environment for global and domestic visitors as well.

The Culture Ministry is set to organize a public-participatory inspection team to root out rip-offs and discriminatory pricing. A separate team will be launched to deal with such cases and assist visitors who file complaints.

The ministry decided to increase the number of K-tourism roadshows -- promotional events held overseas to showcase Korea’s traditional and contemporary culture -- from 15 to 25 in 2024.

Exempting Chinese tourists from visa issuance fees, which was temporarily applied to Chinese travelers from September to December, will be extended to 2024.

Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia will be included in the list of exempt countries.

According to Jang, travel-friendly services like a foreigner-exclusive mobile app for train, bus and taxi services, and an English navigation app will be available in 2024.

To quench tourists’ thirst for Korean content-related events, beauty festivals, K-pop shows, food fairs, e-sports experiences, medical tourism packages and meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions tourism packages are expected to be expanded as well.

“We hope to attract 20 million global visitors to Korea in 2024, and exceed the pre-pandemic number of foreign travelers from 2019. We will also make the utmost effort to collaborate with local governments and tourism-related firms to support mass tourism,” the Culture Ministry official said.

In 2022, the country welcomed approximately 3.2 million inbound visitors, according to the Korea Tourism Organization. Just before the COVID-19 pandemic, Korea had a record of 17.5 million inbound tourists in 2019.