Suitcase serenade

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Suitcase serenade

Call it seeing the whole world in the blink of an eye.

Since 1986, the Korean World Travel Fair has been a venue to tout overseas and domestic travel opportunities. Companies in travel-related businesses and countries' tourism boards book booths at the annual fair, which was held this year at the Coex Center in southern Seoul. The exhibitors bring stacks of literature, posters of glorious locations and plenty of other freebies.

This year's fair, held from May 1 to last Saturday, plugged new travel spots and staged fashions shows, concerts and games. About 100,000 visitors families, college students majoring in tourism and travel agents attended. They walked around, took photos with funny life-size characters, watched ethnic craftsmen and grabbed freebies.

The event was sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Korea National Tourism Organization and the Korea Tourism Association, among many other groups. There were 181 booths rented by domestic entities and 165 booths run by overseas outfits, from countries as diverse as Cambodia, Macau, Poland, Syria, Tahiti and Tanzania. The fair is considered the No. 2 of its kind in Asia, behind Japan's annual event.

Among the organizations renting booths for the first time this year were the tourism boards of Oman and Cambodia, and the recently opened Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan.

Some of the most popular displays were put on by the tourism boards of Japan, the Philippines, China, Hawaii, Guam and Singapore. Guam's booth featured a dart game for guests, with fun prizes such as scarves and mugs.

Indonesia had a bigger booth this year. "Korean tourists have jumped from being Jakarta's fifth largest clients to third," said a spokeswoman at the exhibit.

Reflecting turmoil in their countries, Israel and Nepal signed up but did not attend.

While snapping up brochures about Bali isn't quite the same as reclining on one of its beaches, the fair offered just enough to excite wanderlust. And for a couple days, the Coex was filled with people necklaced with leis, courtesy of the Hawaii booth.

For more and more Koreans, the world no longer seems a large, intimidating place


(or what I learned at the fair)


Enjoy the wilderness from the comfort of a futuristic space cabin. The structure is portable, but can be designed so you can park a car beneath it. The product is in the prototype stage, but will be available soon.


"You can get married in Bali with a traditional wedding," says an agent with a local travel agency, Freedom. So far, no Koreans have signed up, but the agent at the booth, An Chul-hee, remains optimistic.


On Jan. 13, 1903, 102 Koreans set sail across the Pacific to work in Hawaii's sugar cane fields. They represented the first wave of Korean immigrants to the United States.

During the colonial era, the laborers were paid 75 cents for 10 hours of work. Many set aside 20 cents to support the independence movement in Korea.

Next year Hawaii will be celebrating the rich history of Korean immigrants to the United States. Now there are some 2 million Koreans living throughout the United States.


A singing olympics? You better believe it. Conceived by a German cultural organization, the first Choir Olympics was held in Linz, Austria, two years ago, and more than 300 choirs from 60 countries participated. Busan will be hosting the 2002 Choir Olympics from Oct. 19 to Oct. 27.


Many deterrents -- such as steep costs and few courses -- keep golfers from playing in Korea. But flying to China to tee it up can be less expensive. One good place to go is Hainan Island.


The company Pixell Science and Design is known for its challenging puzzles and games, but its latest offering is the "Soccer Guy" doll. "We're licensed by the World Cup Korea-Japan, and each doll represents one of the World Cup countries," said the company's assistant manager, Bryan Chung.

Hottest ticket? Costly, one-of-a-kind tours

When Shin Joong-mok founded the Korea World Travel Fair in 1986, tourism was not a big industry in Korea, and few foreign countries courted Korean tourists. Koreans began to travel abroad in significant numbers after 1988, and the figures have been climbing since.

Mr. Shin talked with the JoongAng Ilbo English edition about the fair and changes in tourism.

Q : What's different about this year's fair?

A: We've been emphasizing Korean sites; the Visit Korea motto is "See Korea first, then go abroad."

And we invited the World Cup member countries. After all, this is a great time for them to shine.

Q : Many nonindustry people are here.

A : I tell students to come. The fair gives them a dream, and broadens their mind-set.

Q : How has the industry changed?

A : Before, people were interested in cheap package tours with multiple stops. They wanted to say "I was in Italy." Now, tourists want to actually enjoy the places they're visiting. They're shunning package tours with strangers and going with families and friends. They're also looking for expensive, one-of-a-kind tours.

by Joe Yong-hee

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