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Jeju makes final pitch for 7Wonders title

[NEW7WONDERS OF NATURE SPECIAL: First in a two-part series] ‘People now know about the Christ the Redeemer statue and go to see it. That’s what we need.’ -Chung Un-chan

Oct 13,2011
An aerial shot of Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak By Kwon Hyeok-jae

With the clock winding down on the New7Wonders of Nature competition, there will be one last event organized with the aim of attracting enough votes to put Jeju Island over the top.

Two days before the final announcement is made on Nov. 11, pop-opera singer and Jeju ambassador Rose Jang will give a concert on Nov. 9 at Lincoln Center in New York, where she will use the opportunity to try and give the southern isle a final boost. The concert was organized by the New York Korea Daily, an affiliate of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Jang has won numerous accolades for her work, including the title of most successful artist of 2009 and one of Korea’s “10 Most Shining Stars” by Arirang TV. The concert also aims to promote the Dead Sea of Israel and the Grand Canyon in the United States.

More than two years have passed since Jeju was named by the New7Wonders Foundation as a candidate for the designation, which could boost tourism to the island.

The New7Wonders Foundation, established in 2001, is a Swiss NGO that exists to conserve and promote world heritage sites. In 2007, its New7Wonders of the World campaign drew 100 million voters who cast votes via telephone or Internet to rank the seven top heritage sites in the world. Although there was some controversy as to whether the sites qualified as new wonders of the world, the poll provided candidate destinations with the opportunity to advertise themselves and helped boost tourism.

In the second round of voting for the New7Wonders of Nature, which concluded in 2009, 77 sites out of more than 440 worldwide were chosen based on the votes cast and the opinions of a panel of experts. Since then, the list has been narrowed to 28. Although voting in the first round included an evaluation by a panel of experts, the final round is determined by votes cast by the public.

In Korea, the effort to promote Jeju Island is helmed by the National Committee for Jeju New7Wonders of Nature, established last December with former Prime Minister Chung Un-chan as chairman.

The committee appointed several ambassadors for the New7Wonders drive, including Jang, Manchester United’s Park Ji-Sung, boy band JYJ, pop-opera star Paul Potts and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Hines Ward.

Jeju may have an advantage over its rivals in that it is the only one with all seven features required by the foundation - landscape, island, volcanos, beaches, caves, rainfall and forests - although its rainfall and forests are certainly smaller than those of Iguazu Falls or the Amazon Rainforest in South America.

Jeju has also been granted triple crowns in the natural and scientific fields by Unesco: it won designation as a Biosphere Reserve in 2002, induction to the World Natural Heritage List in 2007, and it was designated as a Global Geopark in 2010.

Jeju may also have an edge in that it is the only place in Northeast Asia to make the final list of 28. Other sites in Asia that were on the earlier list include the Yangtze River in China, Mount Fuji in Japan and Mounts Baekdu and Kumgang in North Korea.

Meanwhile, the committee has enlisted some of the nation’s top K-pop stars through appearances on TV music programs. Concerts featuring Super Junior, Girls’ Generation, f(x), Kara and many more K-pop groups aired on KBS and SBS in April and July.

“I was very thankful that these broadcasting companies agreed to shoot their programs on Jeju,” Chung told the Korea JoongAng Daily last month. “Airing the programs locally and internationally really helped show what Jeju has to offer. Fans of these stars had a chance to appreciate the marvelous scenery as they watched the performances.”

Yang Young-geun, CEO of the Jeju Tourism Organization (JTO), believes recognition such as this could benefit the southern island.

“It is definitely an appealing factor for tourists from nearby countries,” Yang said. “It’s a chance to get Jeju selected and eventually boost tourism on the island.”

The seven winners of the last New7Wonders project, in 2007, have since seen a huge increase in tourism, according to the JTO. Mexico’s Chichen Itza, Peru’s Machu Picchu and Jordan’s Petra saw about 75 percent, 70 percent and 62 percent more tourists per year, respectively, than before the 2007 announcement, the JTO says.

“Critics have speculated as to whether it is worth being selected, but that’s not what’s important,” Chung said. “People now know about the Christ the Redeemer statue and go to Brazil to see it. That’s what we need.”

Of course having Jeju on the winner’s list is important, but the national committee and JTO have said their ultimate goal is a sustainable environment and tourism industry.

Last month, the national committee invited ambassadors of the 28 candidate countries to Jeju for two days to discuss the importance of preserving their environmental assets and working together to boost tourism.

“We need to reject the idea of competition and instead use this as a chance to recognize the beauty of each country. Let’s work together to form a tourism network,” Chung said in his conference-opening speech.

The seven winners will be announced on Nov. 11. The number of votes each candidate location receives is not made public.

*To vote for Jeju Island, call or text “Jeju” in Korean or English to (001) 1588-7715, or visit www.new7wonders.com. For news on Jeju, visit Twitter (@7wondersJEJU) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/n7wjeju).

*This article was written by the Korea JoongAng Daily with help from the Korean Culture and Information Service.


By Lee Sun-min [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]



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