Even in the tourism field, a new path for peace between North and South Korea has opened. On July 11, the Seoul Tourism Organization (STO) held the “2018 Symposium for the Revitalization of Seoul-Inter-Korean Peace Tourism” at the Seoul Center for Architecture & Urbanism. The theme for the symposium was “The Path from Seoul to Inter-Korean Peace Tourism,” and there was a site visit carried out for tourist destinations of peace in the Seoul capital area.
With the success of the inter-Korean summits, the 2018 North Korea-U.S. Summit, and of the talks of building a high-speed railway that would connect the two Koreas, there has been a sudden increase in interest from Korea and abroad for areas like Panmunjom and other regions that border North Korea. Experts are predicting major changes for the future such as the disappearance of Panmunjom and the rapid development of the area around the DMZ following a declaration of the end of war. They predict that there will be a sudden surge in demand for “an opportunity to see the world’s only divided country in person” and “a chance to get a firsthand experience of the beginnings of an era of world peace.” In preparation for the fast-approaching age of reconciliation between North and South Korea, STO organized the symposium to put together long-term plans for the development of content for peace tourism.
There were approximately 60 participants in attendance representing associations from a variety of fields such as the travel industry, MICE and academia. There were also participants from inbound travel agencies in China, Japan, Southeast Asia, the Americas and Europe, SMA member companies and media outlets for tourism. The participants took the lead in revitalizing the development of new products by visiting landmarks related to peace tourism in the morning. The goal was to breathe new life into existing security-themed tourism products, primarily the Third Infiltration Tunnel and Panmunjom. The participants showed a great deal of interest in Camp Greaves, a new DMZ landmark that became well-known for being a shooting location for the TV drama Descendents of the Sun
; and the Gyeongui Highway Transit Office, which started garnering attention after Olympic athletes from North Korea were seen passing through its gates during the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
During the symposium that was held in the afternoon, there was time dedicated to organizing a new path and role for Seoul as a hub for inter-Korean peace tourism along with a discussion regarding the outlook of “peace tourism” becoming an important theme for the future of Seoul’s tourism industry. STO introduced the participants to Seoul’s peace-themed tourism contents such as the Peace Culture Bunker, Seoul Battleship Park, and the War Memorial of Korea while putting forth their energy into the revitalization of new peace tourism products. The participants agreed that “peace” will become the Korean tourism theme that will one day replace Hallyu. They also made suggestions for the construction of new infrastructure, development of new content, and strategies to help Seoul become the hub of Inter-Korean peace tourism.
As the relationship between the two Koreas was considered to be the greatest reason behind the decline of tourism to Seoul, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is anticipating that the current atmosphere of peace will increase the number of Seoul-bound tourists. President and CEO of STO, Jae-sung Rhee, announced his vision for this new path: “Starting with the symposium, we will establish a variety of tourism policies and plans to prepare for the era of inter-Korean peace tourism. We will also actively work on developing tourism content. We will do our best to ensure that Seoul is seen as a tourist city that symbolizes world peace.”
The STO website (http://www.seoulwelcome.com/en/) is currently down and undergoing construction. In the meantime, visit www.miceseoul.com for more info.