A significant achievement in its travel infrastructure is giving Korea a big boost in its efforts to attract more tourists to the fast developing country. By the end of 2011, Korea recorded more than nine million visitors, exceeding the 2010 arrivals of eight million.
Despite global economic concerns, Korea is preparing for even more tourists in 2012. The lofty aim is to attract 10,000,000 tourists this year. One particular event that will greatly boost tourism in Asia’s most affluent countries is Expo 2012.
Canada has decided to skip the world’s fair. Heritage Minister James Moore said Canada will not participate in Expo 2012 because it will be too expensive when the country is dealing with a budget deficit.
The Liberals say the Tory government spent $50-million to bring G8 leaders to Canada but do not think it is important to invest $10-million to showcase Canada to millions of visitors at the 2012 fair. Canada participated in the Expo 2010 in Shanghai in China. Canada is alone among G20 countries in giving Expo 2012 a pass.
Hea Keun Lee, a successful Korean businessman who is in the car rental business, is disappointed by Canada’s decision. “We will certainly miss Canada’s presence,” he told me during a recent visit to Seoul. “This does not look good when Canada is negotiating a free-trade deal with Korea.”
Bussan, the second largest city in Korea, is also going to play host to Lions International convention in 2012. Lions International is the world’s largest service club. Korea is developing at an extremely fast pace.
Samsung Electronics Co. overtook Apple Inc. in the last quarter to become the world’s largest smart phone. Samsung is also the world’s largest manufacturer of televisions. Last November, Korean manufacturers Hyundai and Kia were the big winners at the Automotive Journalists of Canada 2012 Car of the Year competition.
Hyundai and Kia claimed between them five of the 11 categories. Mercedes-Benz took two category awards, with the remainder shared between four manufacturers.
Amadeus, a leading transaction processor of advanced technology solutions for the global travel and tourism industry, is predicting South Korea will be a market to watch in 2012 for both inbound and outbound growth.
While Korea may not rival markets such as China and India in terms of travel volume, it is making some major leaps forward and should continue to do so in 2012. At present, many of Korea’s visitors come from mainland China.
Korea is attracting a growing number of international visitors in recent years due to a growing appreciation for Korean culture, fashion, music and food. During our trip, we found it extremely reasonable and easy to get to the Incheon International Airport from downtown Seoul.
For bus commuters in Seoul, a new smart phone technology at bus stations allows travelers to scan a barcode for instant information on departure times in English, Chinese or Japanese. South Korea is most forward thinking country, just like Japan, thanks to its hurry-hurry approach to everything.
The country, which is also home to a variety of LG products, has an insatiable appetite for technological advancement. This country has a can-do attitude. It wants to do everything in fast forward.
The spanking new airport even has special smoking cafes equipped with high speed Internet and laptops. In Korea, temples, pagodas and royal tombs are a source of much fascination. The country’s climate is very similar to Canada.
The country even has maple trees. It is a photographer’s paradise in the cool fall season. The Republic of Korea was proclaimed in August 1948 and received United Nations backed support from the United States after it was invaded by the North two years later.
Its immediate neighbor has slipped into totalitarianism and poverty. The Korean War, in which many Canadians fought, ended in 1953 without a peace agreement, leaving South Korea technically at war for more than half a century. Today, South Korea is one of the world’s major economies and a leading exporter of cars and electronic goods.
The country’s economy is now the third largest in Asia and the 13th in the world. However, the country is always on war alert. There are regular evacuation exercises. We were caught in one of this alert during our stay.
The demilitarized zone (DMZ) between South and North Korea is the world’s most heavily-guarded and fortified frontier. The United States maintains tens of thousands of soldiers in South Korea. The country has a population of around 49 million.
The major language is Korean and the major religions are Buddhism and Christianity. The monetary unit is won. Newspaper readership is high and there are more than 100 national and local dailies. Online gambling is a national pastime. Animosity between the two Koreas still lingers.
The recent death of North Korea’s “dear leader” Kim Jong-il, who ruled the imprisoned country for nearly 18 years, is not expected to change much for South Korea. However, the passing of the dictator is seen as the first step in a nation’s transition to democracy. North Korea boasts one of the largest militaries in the world with more than one million of the country’s 23 million residents enlisted.
Kim Jong-un, the youngest son of the former leader, has been chosen as the new leader. South Korea is watching developments in the neighboring country with anticipation and hope.