[VIEWPOINT]Grand symbol in a grand nationThe number of tourists from the Americas and Europe visiting Korea is increasing continuously since the World Cup earlier this year, thanks to Korea's good showing and finish in the top four. Experts assert that in order for us to become one of world's major economic powers, it is crucial to develop a marketing strategy to boost Korea's image. Several things, including new tourist developments and more hosting of large international conferences, will be necessary to support this objective.
The improvement and polishing of cultural heritages could fall into a tourist development strategy, but unfortunately, countless resplendent relics have been destroyed by numerous invasions such that only a handful of remains are left. Namdaemun, the No. 1 national treasure, is a dwarf compared to China's Tiananmen Square. We all realize that although there were many visitors to our country during the World Cup, not enough rich tourist attractions exist for them to visit Korea again.
Because of this lack of attractions, it is unfortunate that the plan to construct a "New Millennium Gate" near the Sangam World Cup Stadium has been sidetracked because of public opposition. It was proposed to be completed by the beginning of the World Cup season. The New Millennium Gate was to have been a symbol of Seoul, which is beginning to play a more important role in the world, and was to have been erected as a representative icon of our vision for the 21st century. The other objective, attracting foreign tourists, must also be part of our thinking.
We find that well-maintained tourist sights in the world's capital cities swarm with foreign visitors. Many of them were built in the 19th and 20th century.
Look at the Eiffel Tower. At the time it was built, many Parisians were adamantly opposed to it saying that the unsightly steel structure would only become an eyesore, and it was nearly torn down in 1909. But now it has become the first spot to visit once you are in France. I do not understand why Korea is so parsimonious in constructing such a tourist attraction. The condemnable belated repentance is that we've now lost the opportunity to celebrate and commemorate the advancement of our team to the semifinals.
The Opera House of Sydney, Australia, which has been criticized by the parliament because of its astronomical construction cost and several changes of design, was finally constructed with the support of the people and the hard work of the government. Australians who truly value culture have created, despite the burden of the high cost, a beautiful tourist attraction for the world to visit. That is very much unlike us.
The city of Seoul has decided to construct a memorial hall to commemorate the success of the World Cup, but it will only be about 1,320 square meters in size and is to be located inside Sangam Stadium. This is a national deed planned in order to extol our achievement during the World Cup and to preserve the history of our march to the semifinals. How about re-examining the construction of the more grand "New Millennium Gate," which would surely be kept more dearly in our hearts and be proudly handed down to posterity?
The high, towering Millennium Door, through which the universe would be reached, would be the symbol of the hopes of our land, and would represent peace and the coexistence of humanity; this would suffice to catch the world's attention.
Recently, many countries have been spending large sums to develop their cultural tourism. Bilbao, a mining city in northern Spain, has built a Guggenheim Museum from the United States at the price of 110 billion won ($91 million). This is double the cost of the construction of the Millennium Gate, but has resulted in tourist income of $375 million in the past three years from 1.3 million visitors.
The hosting of the World Cup this year has shown the world that Korea is a fine country, giving hope to the Asian people. Our nation has gained confidence. The next step for us to take is to collect our energy to develop our country into a major economic power.
I hope for the support of our people in creating a national landmark, not necessarily the New Millennium Gate, to represent our grand country.
The writer is the chairman of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
by Park Yong-sung