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Gov't to develop mountain tourism

The South Korean government said Tuesday it will build more cable cars and resorts to help boost tourism in forests and mountain areas as it unveiled a set of measures to invigorate the country's trade and investment. 

South Korea has yet to explore and develop the mountain tourism industry, an area that the business community says has much growth potential. According to the business lobby group Federation of Korean Industries (FKI), a poll last year said hiking was the second most popular sports activity in the country.

Unlike countries such as those in Europe where hotels can be built alongside hilltops, however, regulations here restrict development on nearly 80 percent of all mountains, the FKI said, limiting potential activities for visitors.

To remove these barriers that block tourism development, the government will mitigate such regulations and designate "special areas" on mountains to allow hotel construction, the Ministry of Strategy and Finance said.

The government said it will also provide support to construct environment-friendly cable cars on well-visited local mountains.

Both Mount Seorak and Mount Nam are located near popular tourist attractions, with Mount Nam only minutes away from the crowded Myeongdong in central Seoul, the most visited shopping district by foreigners. Mount Seorak is situated next to Gyeongju, the former capital in the country's southeast that is abundant with historical sites.

"The city government has been aware of the need to improve the cable car business on Mount Nam since 2009," a Seoul city official said. "In order to do that, we need to find the best possible spot for tourists to come and go more conveniently.

"Once we set up the gondola lifts along with parking spaces and relevant facilities for tourists, we expect around 83,000 out of the 4.5 million Mount Nam visitors to ride the lifts every year," the official added.  

The ministry said laws will be revised to allow the construction of treehouses and log cabins to provide eco-friendly accommodations for tourists.

The government will also increase the number of mountain shelters at national and provincial parks so they can accommodate 50 percent more travelers by 2020. Currently, there are 19 such shelters where each facility can hold up to 1,292 people. 

"By expanding hotels and relevant facilities near and on mountain regions in South Korea, we expect to lure in more visitors from both home and abroad to enjoy our natural environment," the ministry said. (Yonhap)

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