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Sokcho City aims to attract tourists from around the globe

South Korean city emerges as a leading tourist destination

A majestic view of Yeonggeumjeong Pavilion, located at the entrance of Dongmyeong Harbor (Sokcho City)
A majestic view of Yeonggeumjeong Pavilion, located at the entrance of Dongmyeong Harbor (Sokcho City)

Sokcho, a city of about 81,000 residents located in the eastern part of Gangwon Province along the east coast of South Korea, is getting very popular as a tourist destination with millions of visitors every year.

Although small in size, its splendors and fun-packed tourist sights are more than enough reasons to fall in love with the city. Many also visit the place in hopes for reunification since it is closer to the heavily fortified border with North Korea.

This did not just happen overnight, however. Behind the beauty and peace of the city today is Sockcho residents’ effort that helps it overcome adversities, grow continuously, and strengthen as one.

Citizens in Sokcho take part in a local walking event. (Sokcho City)
Citizens in Sokcho take part in a local walking event. (Sokcho City)

Last April, Goseong, a city adjacent to Sokcho, suffered from a forest fire that burnt some 3,300,000 square meters of its forest to ashes. The downtown area was threatened within just the first two hours of the fire and about 1,800 people lost their homes overnight.

With property damage estimated at 11.4 billion won, Goseong became the sixth region to be designated as a special disaster area during the Moon Jae-in administration. However, it is recovering fast thanks to Sokcho City government that was quick to react and raised support funds.

This January, Sokcho’s annual briefing session with resident participants was held in eight different districts with the title “2020 Future Design for Hopeful Sokcho Briefing Session.” The sessions presented the city’s current progress as well as future plans.

Residents were able to take full part in the briefings, resulting in a positive response and praise. There was a 28 percent drop in the total number of resident suggestions, from 116 last year to 84 this year. This is a positive sign that the city is heading closer to its goal of “making every resident happy.”

Seoraksan attracts a number of tourists. (Sokcho City)
Seoraksan attracts a number of tourists. (Sokcho City)

The Expo grass field was opened to citizens last September, marking the beginning of what Sokcho calls “plaza culture.” From its establishment to host the 99 Tourist Expo in 1999, the event hall served as a place to hold all sorts of festivals and civic group events. However, it only caused inconvenience to residents because the venue was not paved. Sokcho invested a total of 1.5 billion won for renovation in its effort to return the facility to people.

Future-oriented policies do not end here. Sokcho is shifting into high gear, accelerating to achieve its diverse plans. The agenda places top priority on upgrading local water supply system, while passing an environmentally friendly urban development bill for the future generation, setting up a public participation project for ‘Ssangcheon’ calamity danger district maintenance, and introducing night operations of the Sokcho Beach.

Plans, based on suggestions from Sokcho residents, are also getting implemented smoothly. They involve the commemoration of 100 years of the 4.5 Daepo Port Independence Movement, night clinics for pediatrics and adolescents, renovation of the old Suhyup Building and urban development of the region, rebirth of ‘Citizens Day’ 35 years after the last of its kind, and transformation of central market street to a one-way street.
 
A scenic view of Sokcho (Sokcho City)
A scenic view of Sokcho (Sokcho City)

Sokcho Mayor Kim Chul-soo, often spotlighted on media as Poseidon, is well-known for his outstanding water control strategies. Ssangcheon, or two streams that flow down from Seoraksan, is the city’s main source of water. However, its topographical characteristics create a critical weakness. The short river length and steep slope make the streams prone to drought.

Mayor Kim was quick to realize the urgency of the matter. While the Sokcho Purification Plant capacity is 52,000 metric tons, average one-day water supply is 35,411 tons, but supply during water shortage period plunges to 26,335 tons. Kim claimed that it is crucial to replenish at least 9,000 tons per day to make up for the lack.

He went all-out with a small budget and yet came up with various alternative water source solutions. A total of 28 billion won, mostly of national expenditure, is expected to be invested in the maintenance works. This will secure 9000 tons of water per day.

Kim has been carrying out water-saving measures as well since last year. Expected to be completed in 2023, modernizing the local water supply system and repairing old pipelines that will stop water leakage can result in saving 5,000 tons of water each day.

English tour map of Sokcho labeled with must-visit tourist attractions (Sokcho City)
English tour map of Sokcho labeled with must-visit tourist attractions (Sokcho City)

The fast-growing city is now capturing the hearts of tourists from around the world with its natural scenery and unique activities.

One of its biggest merits is the abundance of tourist attractions. The small city has everything a tourist needs to experience from parks, botanic gardens and ecological museums to hot springs, ancient temples and the country’s most famous traditional market.

Some of the most popular sites are Seoraksan, Cheoksan Hot Springs, Abai Village, and Yeonggeumjeong. Yeonggeumjeong in particular is gaining popularity among foreign tourists for it is the best spot to gaze out at the East Sea. The wide-open view and murmurs of the sea make it a peaceful relaxation spot. 

People at Sunrise Festival gather on the Sokcho Beach to celebrate the New Year. (Sokcho City)
People at Sunrise Festival gather on the Sokcho Beach to celebrate the New Year. (Sokcho City)

Sokcho is also renowned for the four-season tourism. Blessed with four beautiful seasons, the city provides variety of different activities all year long: teatime and cherry blossom sightseeing in the spring, dynamic activities such as scuba-diving and Jangsahang Port Catching Squid with Bare Hands Festival in the summer, cable car ride at Seoraksan the fall, and the Sunrise Festival in the winter that brings thousands of people from all over the country around the end and beginning of a year.

Above all, Sokcho is a city fitted with all the convenient facilities and easier access. Thanks to Seoul-Yangyang Expressway and plenty of franchises, the beautiful city provides excellent accessibility and comfort that helps visitors from the metropolitan area feel at home.

By Park Joung-kyu (fob140@heraldcorp.com) & Kim Tae-eun (kimt17@heraldcorp.com)
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