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May 30, 2010

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Ride the S. Korean wave

IMAGINE when you climb the breathtaking mountains, trace the tracks of your favorite Korean drama, spot celebrities at nightclubs and go shopping with amazing discounts -- South Korea is well prepared to offer you a once in a lifetime visiting experience.

A three-year event, "Visit Korea Year 2010 to 2012," is now in full swing and allows the "Hallyu," or the Korean wave, to sweep across the world once again.

Led by Korea Tourism Organization, the event is meant to boost Korea's inbound tourism traffic via improved tourism quality, including a variety of local cultural and traditional festivals, special shopping and lodging discounts, and better public services, among others.

More details of the big event were revealed by Charm Lee, president of the organization on Thursday at the opening ceremony of Korea Tourism Information and Service Center on Nanjing Road E.

The center will serve as an official guide to local residents planning to visit South Korea. Free booklets and maps covering information on travelling to Korea are available at the center.

"Korea has seen an enormous boost in its inbound tourism from China since the launch of the event," said Lee.

He said from the beginning of this year to May, South Korea has received 30 percent more visitors from China than the same period last year.

And in this May alone, Korea has received 70 percent more visitors from China than last May, thanks to the promotion, the weather, and World Expo Shanghai.

About 2 million Chinese visitors travelled to Korea last year, and Lee predicted the number would be at least increased by 500,000 and may even reach 3 million this year.

South Korea is expecting a total of 8.5 million visitors from all over the world this year, compared with 7.8 million last year. Also, China has been the No. 1 outbound tourism destination for Koreans, with a total of 5 million Koreans coming to China every year. And among them, 1 million come to Shanghai every year.

The theme for the three-year event is "Spirit, Excitement, Affection." Lee said the three words were all from Korean and oriental culture, each having its own specific meaning and representing the unique characters of Korea and its people.

Among the three words in the theme, "spirit" means the mysterious energy from nature, as visitors shake off the rust and get refreshed by Korea's unspoiled sceneries and majestic sights.

"Excitement" means the various activities that will affect visitor emotions, either making them burst into laughter or tears. "Affection" leads to another spotlight of Korea's tourism, referring to the open, enthusiastic and friendly Koreans.

"Koreans are open-mined and very willing to make friends with foreign visitors," Lee said.

"Language is no longer an obstacle for foreign visitors, as now more people can speak English and most signboards in big cities are also written in English and Chinese," said Lee.

He said a nationwide campaign, called "Smile Project," was underway in Korea to encourage the residents to show more passion toward foreign visitors.


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