Will deregulation lead to a jackpot?

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Will deregulation lead to a jackpot?

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A micronation is a model country that is not officially recognized as a state or nation but claims to be an independent community that resembles a country. These imaginary countries may seem like a joke, but there are more than 120 micronations around the world. In Korea, Nami Island is a micronation. On March 1, 2006, the island declared the independence of the “Nami Republic,” with its own constitution, national anthem, currency, passport, language and even armed forces - the crewmembers on the passenger ferry to the island are its naval officers.

The island also began to pose as a principality as a marketing strategy. The island has attracted many Japanese tourists since 2004 after the drama “Winter Sonata” became a hit in Japan. But authorities projected the boom would dwindle in three years, so in seeking a breakthrough, it came up with the idea to become an “imaginary nation” that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

The background is more complicated, but Jeonggwanru, a state-run hotel on Nami Island, provides a clue. The 44-room hotel displays a sign with six stars. While it may seem like a six-star hotel, Korean hotels are categorized with hibiscus flowers, so the six-star plaque is only a decoration.

Nami Island’s CEO Kang Woo-hyon explained, “When we applied for a category upgrade, bureaucrats were being unnecessarily picky and didn’t handle the matter promptly. We waited two years and then decided to put up the stars. We provide six-star service, and the guests enjoy six-star accommodation. But on paper, the hotel is rated as an inn.”

At the Blue House meeting about deregulation, the hotel project, interrupted by the School Health Act, led to the president’s “sin” remark, and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s comment, “We are frustrated, too.” The hotel project is being postponed for a year, as it has to be located 170 meters (186 yards) from an elementary school.

But we can’t just blame regulation. To the parents, hotels still seem like harmful facilities. Nowadays, luxury hotels offer romantic packages for couples. They used to be intended for married couples, but the hotels are targeting unmarried couples as well.

On Nami Island, you can find a Taiwanese flag, something that cannot be seen in Korean public facilities because Korea only has a diplomatic relationship with China. A Taiwanese visitor showed his excitement when he found the flag. Last year, 100,000 Taiwanese visited Nami Island.

Each room at the Jeonggwanru, the “six-star inn,” is different, designed by different artists. The declaration of independence was Nami Island’s response against regulations. Will regulating the regulations lead to a tourism jackpot?

JoongAng Ilbo, March 26, Page 31

*The author is a culture and sports news writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

BY SON MIN-HO


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