I returned to Seoul last night after visiting Beijing. It is only a two-hour flight and I feel as if I have only been to a neighboring town within the country. Twenty years have passed since the establishment of sisterhood relations between the two cities. I believe the bilateral relations have become more solid with the delegation’s visit to Beijing. I met key figures such as Mayor Wang Anshun and Party Secretary Guo Jinlong, strengthened the friendly ties, agreed to brisker exchanges, and obtained the business people’s promise to invest in South Korea.
In addition to the existing social and economic relations, cultural ties have become more solid as well between the two countries. The performance of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra at Chinese State Theater during our visit left a deep impression on the Chinese. CCTV of China recorded the performance, and it will be aired soon. Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun and I sat side by side and watched the two-hour-long performance. After the performance, we talked a lot about hallyu. The performance of the two countries’ B Boys received enthusiastic applause. Similarly, cultural exchanges help people become friends and create business. For this reason, I believe we need to make more positive efforts for the development of cultural and tourism goods associated with hallyu.
About 3 million Chinese tourists are visiting this country every year. Such will have great impact on tourism and MICE (meeting, incentive tour, convention, and exhibition) industries, particularly positive economic effects. I have an ambitious plan of increasing the number of tourists visiting Seoul to 20 million a year within 5 years. To realize this plan, we need to treat Youkeo (Chinese tourists) like kings and queens. We will hold explanatory sessions for Chinese interested in visiting Seoul, including the one in Beijing (April 23th) and the one in Shanghai (25th).
The explanatory sessions will consist of Travel Mart session, presentation on the tourism resources in Seoul, and friendship session. Many travel agent representatives will take part. At the Travel Mart session, people from theme parks, performing businesses, shopping malls, and exhibition halls in Seoul will hold one-on-one business meetings with their Chinese counterparts. Their discussions will focus on the development of tourism resources as new travel goods and, perhaps the most important one, prices.
The presentation will introduce the efforts made by Seoul Metropolitan Government regarding service improvement for Chinese tourists, including an increase in the number of affordable lodgings and tourism resources that Chinese will be particularly interested in.
We will do what we can to introduce Seoul as a must-visit city by publicizing hallyu-associated tourist destinations and good shopping centers. We will also adopt a system wherein Seoul certifies recommendable tourist goods the first of its kind adopted by a local government to help ensure tourists’ convenient shopping.
With a drastic increase in the number of Chinese tourists, Seoul will emerge as a world-class tourist city based on its tradition as the capital of the country for 600 years now and its present status as an ultra-modern city with population of 10 million. Seoul will be remembered as the country’s center for hallyu and cultural contents. We will make efforts to make Seoul a city that foreigners want to visit again and where they can do sightseeing safely and pleasantly.