Tuesday, September 15, 2009

KTO head not happy about event cancellations

Lee Charm, the new head of the KTO (Korea Tourism Organization), is ticked off about recent cancellations of local events that might have an effect on tourism. In short, H1N1 prevention is not a good reason for doing so:
"Many nations around the world have been hit by influenza A, but Korea is the only country to have taken such measures," KTO President Lee Charm said.

He made the remarks at his first official press conference since taking office 70 days ago.

"We looked into cases in the United States, France, Japan, China, Thailand, Hong Kong, etc. None of these countries instructed their local governments to cancel cultural or tourism plans as a countermeasure to the flu," he said.

"Simply avoiding crowded places is no solution. No one tells us to stop commuting on public transportation."

The Ministry of Public Administration and Security issued a set of instructions last week, urging local governments to "basically cancel large events lasting more than three days with over 1,000 participants."
I'm not so sure how much tourism from overseas would be affected by the cancellation of an event in, say, Chindo or Kwangju. I mean, the mountains, the palace, Myŏngdong shopping, and the DMZ are all still there, right? My understanding is that the events in question are more local affairs for provincial residents, and it is a sense of community, not the bottomline for tourism-related businesses, that will be hard hit.

By the way, I have met Lee Charm in a professional capacity, back when he was Lee Hanu, and I'd say he's a pretty nice guy. I wish him well in his new capacity, but if he quits, I'd like a crack at his job. I've got some good ideas (and no, none of them involve copying Germany's newest campaign).


  1. Well, I don't have any figures in front of me, but I'll bet Gwangju will take this pretty hard. Three of its four big fall festivals---Kimchi Festival, Chungjangno Festival, Photonics Expo---have been cancelled, and the Design Biennale has been scaled down. These are huge for the city, and we've seen signs up about them for months. I got my first pamphlet about the Photonics Expo last year.

    I know they stick "International" in the festival names, but that means nothing more than maybe they've invited some foreign participants. I don't think foreign tourism will be hurt by these regional cancellations, but you can bet Gwangju will suffer.

    But, and I'll say this but I don't want you to steal this from me because I'm going to post on it later, I read an editorial last week that basically said "well, we have too many festivals anyway," so perhaps in the future other regional festivals won't even bother opening up shop. I can't imagine things like the Jindo Arirang Festival attract many people outside of Jindo residents anyway.

  2. Oh, and GFN, the local English radio station, has been talking about the Photonics Expo since the station started in April. Every day, all day, about how photonics are the hope for humanity, and about how Gwangju is leading a new tomorrow. I'll bet they've just gone off air since there's nothing left to talk about.

  3. I do feel for the local organizers of these events and the residents in the area, because of the costs of hosting these and the social capital and intangible benefits that are lost when they aren't held.

    And I guess the KTO isn't only concerned about international tourism to Korea, but also tourism within Korea.

    And don't worry, I won't steal that idea from you. I'm sympathetic to such financial concerns, but if these events are well attended — even if just from locals — than I see some good in them. It's a quality of life issue that helps break up the workaday hum drum.

    As for photonics, they'll still be around next year.

    I know that the general consensus in the K-blogs has been that the South Korean reaction has been overblown, but — so far — South Korea's aggressive treatment has led to only 1% of the nearly 600 deaths so far in the US, a country with six times the population, not one hundred times.

    Sure, one could argue that (to some degree) this is not so different from "regular flu," so what is the big deal?

    Well, perhaps it is time we started taking even "regular flu" more seriously; 30,000 deaths per year is totally unacceptable. Second, the death rate is higher for this, and from a less vulnerable population as well, so there is a heightened danger. Finally, and this might be more important, "regular flu" has less of a danger of evolving into a more virulent form, unlike this new form. The fewer people that get infected, the less chance for such mutation. This really is a no-brainer.

  4. I'm not a doctor, but it seems like swine flu or regular flu, those vulnerable need to take care. In Korea all 7 deaths were people who already had very serious illnesses, and six of the seven were senior citizens.

    Health care in the US is pretty shitty, as is care of the elderly, so the relatively high number of deaths isn't that surprising. But you're right, perhaps this should create a revolution in how we care for the sick, and how aware we are of a disease that's been around, and killing, for ages.


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