Minister of Culture and Tourism Interview
1stopKorea recently interviewed Park Ji-Won, Korea's Minister of Culture and Tourism. In the interview Mr. Park elaborates on his plans to increase both the quality and quantity of tourist and cultural activities in Korea. He also gives his thoughts of places on the peninsula not to be missed, plans for 'Visit Korea Year 2001' and ongoing plans for the 2002 World Cup.
1stopKorea: Do you have any general comments you'd like to share with expats already in Korea and people who may be planning to visit?
Minister Park: It's now the 21st century and we are at the beginning of new millennium. I wish you all good luck as well as good health in the years to come. I would like to talk a little about Korean culture.
Although Korea has a magnificent cultural background of its own, we have not been real successful in modernizing our country over the past few centuries, while other countries have become world powers through their early modernization. The contrast made Korean culture look relatively small and barely recognizable, and even if it was recognized, it was taken for nothing but a follower of Chinese or Japanese culture.
But there is a undeniable truth that we created a new, unique culture, instead of assimilating [outside cultures]. At the same time the giant, powerful force of Chinese culture was dominating Asian societies we exported our culture to Japan where it became the foundation of their culture. This one truth proves our inner strength and speaks loudly about our recent success in becoming one of the top 10 major trading nations in the world.
1stopKorea: Do you have any specific parts of Korean culture in mind that you would like to introduce?
Minister Park: In foreign countries, especially those of Europe and the United States, Korea seems known more as a 'New Economic Power' rather than as a nation of culture. As everyone here knows however, we have a lot of national assets to introduce to foreign visitors.
If I could make some suggestions I would probably go with some of the tangible cultural properties registered on UNESCO's world cultural asset list: Seoggul-am, Bulkuk-sa, Chong-myo (the Royal Ancestor' Shrine), the Tripitaka Koreana, Su-one Hwaseong and Changdeok-Palace.
I would also like to place more emphasis on our mental assets such as Hae-dong Buddhism, Chosun Dynasty Confucianism and Hangul. As you may know, linguists all over the world agree on the convenience and functional efficiency of Hangul. In addition to those we other [cultural assets] to be proud of such as taekwondo and pansori.
1stopKorea: What are you specific plans to make Korea an unforgettable and desirable place to visit?
Minister Park: We have not only traditional cultural properties but also excellent entertainment areas such as Itaewon, and Namdaemun market - which are very attractive to people from other countries. We also plan to develop local tourist attractions with special promotions and by commercializing traditional local craftworks. The [local craftworks] will feature excellent quality at affordable prices so that we can make Korea a very attractive place for foreign travelers.
In addition, I should say this, these days the campaign of 'kindness, cleanliness, honesty, and order' by civic organizations is spreading throughout the nation. We hope this will help improve the image of Korea.
1stopKorea: Would you tell us about what you are preparing for 'Visit Korea Year 2001'?
Minister Park: The Korean Government has designated the year 2001 as 'Visit Korea Year' - hoping for epoch-making changes in our tourism industry. I think people will really appreciate all that we are preparing for them so let me give you a few examples.
First, here will be many festivals, each with lots of events.
Second, there will be many added travel services like a Korea Pass, free tour information services, various accommodation services including 'home-stays', and many package tour services as well. We are also preparing discount services and events, such as 'Bonus Korea' and 'Korea Brand Sale', designed to help lift some of the financial burden travelers experience by giving them [discounts and specials] almost every place they go.
[The emblem for 'Visit Korea Year 2001' is 'Chungsachorong' the traditional Korean Lantern - chosen as a symbol indicating a hearty welcome for guests. The mascots Chorong-i and Saekdong-i are children clothed in traditional Korean dress and appear with the traditional lantern used to welcome visitors. For more information visit http://www.2001visitKorea.com.]
1stopKorea: 1stopKorea is providing our on-line visitors with updated information for the 2002 World Cup. Would you tell us about the preparations for the 2002 World Cup?
Minister Park: The 2002 World Cup is a significant opportunity for us to make big improvements in many areas of our society. Many groups and organizations have all gotten together and are doing their best to make this a wonderful event.
The government has taken this chance and is using it as a springboard to make this country a major tourist destination. As a part of their efforts, they have made advertisements intended for foreign viewers and organized various service systems for foreign tourists. And they are, as I told you, encouraging civic organizations to activate the campaign of 'kindness, cleanliness, honesty, and order' with a little more passion. I would also like to tell you that the stadium will be built on time without any problem.
I think this kind of backing and support is very important but a good outcome from the games is important as well. That's why we've put as much attention into improving the playing-technique of the national team.
As everyone knows, Korea successfully hosted the 88 Olympic Games and Korea has shown amazing resiliency and unity while struggling toward financial recovery from the so-called IMF era. I believe the strong character that Koreans posses will help us again, this time in staging a successful World Cup.
1stopKorea: What, if anything, would you like to recommend to tourists? For example, some interesting travel destinations or good restaurants or maybe a good performance?
Minister Park: I would recommend Kyungbok Palace or any of the other palaces, Sorak Mountain, Cheju Island and Kyongju shouldn't be missed. When it comes to shopping, Namdaemun Market, Dongdaemun Market and Itaewon's shopping area would be the best choices.
For performances, I would like to suggest the National Central Theater (TEL: 2274-1164), The National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts (TEL: 585-0153) and the Seoul Arts Center (Tel: 580-1234). For people who want to enjoy Korean traditional performances while eating a Korean traditional dinner in a Korean traditional house I would really like to recommend they visit Korea House (TEL: 2290-9101).
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