Preparing to travel to Korea

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Preparing to travel to Korea

 LEE YOUNG-HEE
The author is a Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

As I was so eager to get out of Covid-19 and go to Korea, I took the “Travel to Korea test” that is popular in Japan. Out of the four categories — Korean drama, language, performance and tourism — I confidently chose Korean drama. The test asked me, “What was the first Korean drama to top the Netflix chart in the U.S.?” “Squid Game,” of course. I was right.

The next question was, “What was the nickname that Eundong in ‘Crash Landing on You’ used in the battle game?” Was it “tomato farmer?” The correct answer was “bloody efforts.” My final score was 60. The passing score is 70.

The Korea Tourism Organization’s Tokyo branch started the “Travel to Korea test” last year, and in the four rounds, it attracted more than 1 million views and 30,000 test takers. As Covid-19 resulted in travel restrictions, people took the test to appease their desire to visit Korea. On Instagram, there are many posts with the hashtag, #TriptoKoreaPlay. Japanese people pretend to be traveling in Korea by having Korean food like tteokbokki and fried chicken at home or at a hotel and watching Korean dramas or K-pop performances.

As daily Covid-19 cases dropped to 300 in Japan, the country has started to live “with the coronavirus,” and the desire to visit Korea is boiling. It is quite obvious, even considering I am a Korean reporter. Even in the past two years with limited exchanges, interest in Korean dramas, movies, literature, webtoons, food and cosmetics expanded in Japan. Last week, I attended the “Meet-K” event hosted by Japanese content company Kadokawa. I thought I arrived early, but I was surprised to see crowds enjoying Korean webtoons like “Goddess Advent” and tasting snacks like dalgona. The event will continue. From Oct. 29, Korea Tourism Organization’s Takara Korea - Korean Tourism Autumn Festival will be held for a month. Between Nov. 16 and 21, the K-book festival will be held to highlight Korean literature.

In 2018 before the outbreak of Covid-19, more than 10 million people traveled between Korea and Japan. 7.53 million Koreans visited Japan, and 2.95 million Japanese visited Korea, roughly a 7 to 3 ratio. Back then, young Koreans liked to visit small cities in Japan, using budget airlines. If tourism exchanges resume, the number is likely to flip. A tourism industry insider predicted that in the few years after the pandemic, the visitors to Korea and Japan will be 50/50. As the tourism gap between the two countries is about to disappear, it is time to prepare to show the real Korea in person, not as an online trip.

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