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[Herald Interview] Ex-university chief dreams of Jeju as global destination

Ruling party’s Heo targets new tourism assets in gubernatorial bid

Heo Hyang-jin
Heo Hyang-jin
Heo Hyang-jin, the candidate for the ruling People Power Party in the upcoming Jeju Province gubernatorial election, bids to transform the island into a global tourism hub by adding new attractions for travelers with diverse tastes.

Revitalizing the island’s tourism sector, he believes, is one of the most important tasks for the next governor, as the province and its residents have sustained losses from the prolonged pandemic and social distancing rules.

“Surveys have shown that many tourists are dissatisfied with the price of consumer products and the amount needed for travel while they are on Jeju Island,” Heo said in an interview with The Korea Herald last week.

“I believe this is due to the rise in the price of commodities from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as social distancing rules, and that is why I want to install a governor-led special committee to help people return to normal as soon as I become the governor.”

The former president of Jeju National University believes bringing in innovations and additions to the island’s tourism sector is crucial in promoting growth and making Jeju Island the most sought-after tourist destination in South Korea.

Heo said he also looks to host the domestic esports industry on Jeju Island to serve as a hub for South Korea’s gaming industry, and later to host global esports competitions. He is also reviewing the introduction of new nighttime attractions for Jeju Island to better appeal to visitors.

“Tourism for Jeju should grow in terms of quality beyond the stage of seeing and enjoying to actually learning, feeling and sharing emotions,” Heo said.

“With the goal of making Jeju into an ‘healing tourism island’ where people desire to relocate and live, I vow to grow the island’s marine leisure sports sector, host food exhibitions and globalize the island’s cultural festivals so that the island is full of venues and attractions all year long.”

Such initiatives will help Jeju Island create 32,000 new jobs during his term, he said, adding the province under his rule would also heavily invest in upgrading its infrastructure, such as finishing the construction of the second airport for the island early and fostering new industries.

A successful start of the Yoon Suk-yeol administration would be greatly helpful to achieve these goals, he said.

“President Yoon promised responsible changes multiple times during the presidential race, and we have high hopes for him to carry out his promises for Jeju,” Heo said.

“We also expect the island to receive help with building the second airport and more with Won Hee-ryong, former governor for the province, becoming the first land minister under the new administration.”

The candidate stressed he would use his power as governor if elected to better address the needs of foreign travelers coming to the island. The island is set to bring back its visa-free program for foreigners next month.

“If I become governor, I will promptly respond to areas and needs restricted from COVID-19,” he said. “I will prepare incentives to attract charter flights and unfold various policies through marketing and business consultations to make sure international tourism to Jeju is vibrant.”

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)
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