The Korea Herald

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Fee waivers spark surge in temple visits

By Choi Si-young

Published : Dec. 27, 2023 - 14:54

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Hwaeomsa, a temple in South Jeolla Province, South Korea. (Hwaeomsa) Hwaeomsa, a temple in South Jeolla Province, South Korea. (Hwaeomsa)

The number of visitors to temples across South Korea this year increased by 33 percent on average from the previous year, likely thanks to fee waivers instituted in May.

According to the Cultural Heritage Administration, the agency handling the grant, the surge in visits to 31 temples across the country between May and September was led by Hwaeomsa, a temple in South Jeolla Province that saw a 42 percent jump in the number of visitors.

Next up was Haeinsa in South Gyeongsang Province and Seonamsa in South Jeolla Province, which posted a 34 percent and 22 percent rise, respectively.

“The free admission policy has led to positive cultural and economic changes and the surge in visits as well as tourism revenue will contribute to regional development,” the CHA said.

For 2024, the agency has earmarked 55.2 billion won ($42.66 million) to reimburse operators running the temples. Temple operators received 41.9 billion won in government subsidies this year for not charging visitors. While only temples that house cultural heritage are entitled to government subsidies, most temples do qualify. Entrance fees used to range from 3,000 won to 4,000 won per person.

The CHA’s budget for next year is set at 1.3 trillion won.