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Korea Looks to Keep 'Hallyu' Moving in Asia
A high-ranking official of the Korea National Tourism Organization (KNTO) has revealed his ambition to turn Korea into a popular tourism destination in Northeast Asia.
``We intend to make a travel association for Northeast Asia or a tour block for the region with Korea at the center. The number of visitors to China, Japan and Korea reaches 20 million a year,'' said Ji Il-hyun, executive vice president for KNTO's overseas marketing.
He made the remarks in an interview with The Korea Times on Tuesday, two days before the start of the April 7-9 annual meeting of the Korea chapter of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) in Daejeon (Taejon).
``South Korean tourism has a long history, but there has not been a venue where everyone in the nation's tourism industry could gather, including hotels, airlines, travel agencies, academies and local authorities,'' Ji, who is also vice chairman of PATA Korea Chapter, said.
The conference will serve as a business meeting for local operators, and also allow some 120 foreign travel agents and reporters to see tourism programs presented by Korea's various local authorities.
The invitation of foreign tourism agents is a part of the nation's efforts to become a tourism hub in Northeast Asia.
Some have speculated that the Korean wave will soon subside, but Ji disagreed.
``Around 2000, when Korean singers like H.O.T. were very popular in China, people said hallyu in China would die down. But it didn't and has continued to succeed through soap operas and movies as well as music. The wave will continue in many ways,'' he asserted.
In Hong Kong, the Korean soap opera ``The Great Changkum,'' which features Korea's traditional royal dishes and oriental medicine, is currently very popular. On April 18, a public relations event for the drama will be held in the country attended by the main actor Ji Jin-hee.
He said travel Web sites related to the soap opera are gaining popularity.
``This kind of drama has changed foreigners' conception and recognition of what Korean food and dress is. Korean food was just another foreign food to them, but now it is thought of as a functional food along with oriental medicine,'' Ji said.
``The boom of ``The Great Changkum'' could also be developed into high quality tourism programs introducing oriental medicine or the cuisine of royalty. It will also increase the length of travelers' stay,'' he added.
The tourism organization is trying to help the wave continue by supporting the production of new soap operas.
``We've decided to support a new drama of Yun Seok-ho, director of ``Autumn Tales'' and ``Winter Sonata,'' two dramas that were very popular in Asia. His team will discuss shooting locations with us, and we'll help them get cooperation from local authorities,'' Ji said.
The organization is also preparing to develop performances and concerts into a travel program. ``These contents will be able to show entertainment Korean-style,'' he said.