Make your vacation long and leisurely

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Make your vacation long and leisurely

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Lee Charm

For Lee Charm, CEO of the Korea Tourism Organization, this year’s summer vacation is special. Not only does he get to spend time with his entire family, the trip is the culmination of what he has been working on since he took the helm of the tourism organization two years ago in 2009. Through the trip, he is hoping to bolster tourism industry in Korea by visiting popular vacation spots. At the start of the trip, he shared his thoughts on vacationing in Korea and its effect on the domestic tourism industry.

Here are excerpts of the interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily last weekend.

Q. Most working Koreans take just a few days of vacation either before or after a weekend. What is the reason for that?

A. Most people tend to think going on vacation will disturb their productivity at work. But they need to understand that taking a vacation is actually a boost to productivity. It is important to know when to take a break and when to focus on work, since that will ultimately enhance efficiency and concentration. People need to learn to finish their work in the given amount of hours. Work hard when you are at work, and just rest when you are free to do so. Time invested in rest does not equal to time lost. People need to be aware of this first.

How can this misconception about vacations be corrected?

We need to induce some sympathy from the general public on taking a vacation, especially a long vacation that lasts more than a week. We need to keep talking about taking longer vacations so that people get used to talking about it and eventually take one for themselves. The media can play a role in making more people aware of this idea. As people change their idea about taking a vacation, and society accepts the change, then the idea of taking long vacations will become more natural in Korea.

Why do you encourage people to take vacations?

Looking at the bigger picture, people need to take vacations to refresh their minds. This has the positive effect of bolstering the tourism industry. Koreans need to go to regions across the country, so that local areas are encouraged to set up the infrastructure needed to accommodate tourists such as restaurants, accommodations and information centers. A two- or three-day trip is not enough for a local government to invest in that kind of infrastructure development. Before we start thinking about attracting more foreign tourists, we first need to invigorate domestic travel by Koreans.

Even though you have been encouraging people to take long vacations, it wasn’t easy for you to do so yourself. You tried to take a vacation in November last year, but had to cancel it because your wife was suddenly hospitalized. Then in May of this year, right before you set a vacation date, you had to go to Germany with President Lee Myung-bak.

Yes, but I’ve finally found time to vacation with my family. Since Jaysoo (his older son) and Mikah (his younger daughter) are in Korea for summer vacation, this was the right time to take a vacation together. (Lee went on the trip with his wife and two children, both of whom go to school in Germany.)

As seen in your previous attempts to take a vacation, some events just happen and you can’t plan for them. How did you manage to get 10 days out of the office?

The first week of August is the week the most people take their vacations, so I didn’t have any urgent tasks to work on. But I think I had to cancel or not attend at least 20 events here and there. This time I’m taking 11 days off, but without counting weekends, I’m only using 6 vacation days. Even after this trip, I will have more than 10 days of vacation left.

Some worry that a long vacation is a burden to companies.

I’m just saying that people need to enjoy all of the vacation days they are guaranteed by law. People tend to take a few days off here and there, instead of taking their vacation days in a big chunk. I’m just saying that it’s better to take your vacation days all at once. That’s the core of the KTO’s Refresh Leave project, which I’ve promoted since I took the position two years ago.


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