Teenage boy confesses to mistakenly stealing bike to take care of siblings
Broadcaster warned after omitting honorific for first lady
Yoon says 2,000 increase in med school quota non-negotiable
S. Korea to tighten export controls on Russia, Belarus
Teachers and native English instructors now required to undergo drug testing
[Herald Interview] KTO president picks 'storytelling' as essence of tourismBy Kim Hae-yeon
Published : Feb. 27, 2023 - 16:22
“May I begin by singing you a song that I listen to as a hobby?”
Kim Jang-sil, president of the Korea Tourism Organization, said to the reporter as soon as he sat down for an interview with The Korea Herald at his office in Seoul on Friday.
The 66-year-old chair then spontaneously turned on his favorite 1970s trot music song on his phone and began singing along.
As soon as the song ended, he explained with passion how the tune and lyrics came to be. "It is a story depicting a sorrowful woman in the 1960s, whose partner had left the impoverished countryside to make a new living in Seoul," Kim said.
Every passing moment of people's lives in history is embedded in the streets, places and culture that we experience today, and these elements make up the basis for Korean tourism, according to Kim.
Kim was born in 1956, in a small town in Namhae, South Gyeongsang Province.
Despite his family suffering from poverty under postwar conditions, Kim managed to pass the public administration examination in 1979, and started his career as a public official at the Ministry of Culture and Public Affairs.
Kim worked as president of the Seoul Arts Center from 2009, before he became a Saenuri Party lawmaker in 2012. In November 2015, he was the first Korean politician to perform a talk show at Carnegie Hall in New York, under the title, "Lyrics in Korean History."
Kim began serving his three-year term as president of the KTO in October 2022.
"Korea was called the 'Land of the Morning Calm,' or the 'Hermit Kingdom' by foreigners during the Joseon era. Today, the country bursts with dynamic culture and energy, with people of so much talent."
Kim felt that the story of a “small and quiet nation” overcoming different historical adversities to become a vibrant and colorful country, somehow resembles the narrative structures of today's K-pop, K-drama and K-entertainment content.
"Just as an artist’s personal story emotionally pulls K-pop fans into their music, I see the story of our country as what will attract tourists to Korea in the long run."
The nation's tourism industry is rapidly recovering from the pandemic and the Culture Ministry and the KTO aspire not only to maintain the momentum but also to attract 30 million foreign tourists annually by 2027. In 2019, prior to the pandemic, the number of foreign tourists visiting Korea stood at a record 17.5 million.
What tourists want
Foreign tourists coming to Korea expect to experience an advanced level of technology and quality service throughout their travels, which Kim thinks the KTO is only half done with.
"We are trying to make an A-to-Z 'all-digital' tourism service for the convenience of foreigners who travel. No matter which country they began their journey in, we can connect with tourists digitally to help them with any travel needs in Korea -- from airways and hotels to attraction spots and restaurants."
Kim pointed to the growing number of senior citizens showing greater interest in using digital services than ever before. In the third quarter of 2022, figures show a 95 percent increase in digital commerce usage among those aged 60 and above, compared to 2019, according to Nielsen Media Korea’s data.
"The figures mean that going digital in the tourism industry is ultimately a necessary step, not just for the younger generation but for travelers of all ages," Kim said.
Another relatively new word in the tourism industry is "workation," the concept of remote working while traveling.
Tourists today prefer staying at a single location over a longer period of time, instead of hopping from one place to another, checking boxes on lists in travel guides.
Kim sees such a trend as a great opportunity to foster regional tourism.
"We go to a certain place, know how the locals cook their food and make a living, and where they spend their free time. Following their routines in itself is a new and authentic way of traveling."
People working in cafes near beaches are often spotted in Korea, and accommodation near relaxing tourist areas now tend to accept guests on long-term stays.
"Oftentimes, we tend to focus too much on ways to present something new and organized to tourists, and this also applies to regional festivals. However, each local region already possesses unique histories and folktales to share, which are authentic tourist themes." Kim added that tourists today are wise enough to differentiate between the hastily built and the original. Those values should be considered before developing new tourist sites and events, Kim said.
Why Korea has been so quick to adopt ‘global minimum tax’
Russia sending NK food in return for arms: Seoul defense chief
Legality issues linger as nurses fill treatment void Tuesday