More than 10 million foreign tourists visit Korea

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More than 10 million foreign tourists visit Korea

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A group of Chinese tourists head to the immigration office at the Incheon International Airport to enter Korea yesterday. The number of foreign tourists to Korea this year exceeded 10 million as of yesterday. [YONHAP]


The number of foreign tourists visiting Korea this year surpassed the 10 million mark for the first time yesterday, led by an influx of Chinese and Japanese tourists, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said in a statement.

Celebrating the milestone, Li Tingting, the 10 millionth foreign tourist to visit Korea this year, was offered flowers and souvenirs.

Li, 28, who departed from Shanghai, arrived at the Incheon International Airport at 11:41 a.m. Upon arriving at the airport, Li gave a brief interview with the Korean media, starting with a greeting.

“Annyeong hasaeyo [hello in Korean],” she said, slowly. She then added in Chinese, “It’s my first time visiting Korea and it’s an honor to be the 10 millionth tourist to visit the country.”

“I planned the trip because I really enjoy watching Korean dramas like ‘My Girl’ and other entertainment programs and am very much interested in Korean food and cosmetics,” she said. “I will stay here for 5 days and shop for cosmetics and also visit Gyeongbok Palace.”

Before leaving her country, Li said she visited the Web site of the Korea Tourism Organization and there was no inconvenience in obtaining information about the country even though she doesn’t speak or read Korean.

The culture ministry organized the event at the airport to celebrate the milestone. Choi Kwang-sik, minister of culture, sports and tourism; Lee Charm, chief executive of the Korea Tourism Organization; and Lee Chae-wook, chief executive of the Incheon International Airport, were present at the event.

“South Korea is a far eastern peninsula and at the same time an island with North Korea above us,” Choi said. “We were able to reach this milestone because there were efforts trying to promote the country on a global stage.”

The minister also noted some challenges that remain to improve the country’s tourism industry.

“Our role now is to boost the tourism industry, quality-wise, by developing high-value products like medical tourism,” he said.

“We will also develop tourist sites nationwide by improving and expanding infrastructure with an aim to have 20 million tourists visit the country in 2020.”

According to the culture ministry, 1 million more foreign tourists are expected to visit Korea this year, raising the total number of foreign visitors in 2012 to 11.3 million. Last year, the number was 9.79 million.

Officials said an increase in Chinese and Japanese tourists contributed to the rise.

By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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