With Seollal, Korea’s largest holiday, just around the corner, the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations are well underway. For Korean housewives, the festivities inevitably bring with them the stressful prospects of multiple rounds of cooking to prepare for the traditional ritual charye.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Korea Tourism Organization, and the Korea Federation of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses are preparing a shopping-tourism event to help alleviate holiday stress and revitalize the domestic tourism industry at the same time. The event was designed for Seoulites who live in difficult conditions and have trouble planning trips by themselves.

A shopping-tourism event was held on January 12 to alleviate the stress of the holiday rush and revitalize the regional tourism industry (photo courtesy of the KTO).

The KTO gathered participants on the KTO-run website (www.visitkorea.or.kr) from December 16 last year to January 2 this year, holding the shopping-tourism event on January 12. For 15,000 won, travelers crisscrossed traditional markets on January 12, tasting fresh market items and purchasing food for the upcoming holiday, and visited regional tourist attractions afterwards.

(left) Event participants gather at the assembly spot to get ready to leave; (right) participants hurry to catch the KTX (photos courtesy of the KTO).

Early morning on January 12, visitors gathered at the lobby of the KTO, Seoul Station, and Yongsan Station and split into seven groups of about 160 people each, with seven different destinations (going to Incheon, Seocheon, Kunsan, Jeonju , Daegu, Pohang, and Gimcheon) to start their journey. When the large groups flocked into the markets, the merchants showed bright smiles that remained for a long time.

The team headed to Kunsan in Jeollabuk-do (North Jeolla Province) assembled at Yongsan Station, reaching Kunsan Station at around noon. They got their first foot at the Kunsan Seafood Market, going shopping and having lunch. Some visitors haggled over the price of marine products that had just come out on the market. “It was a great chance for me to eat fresh seafood and also purchase it at a relatively cheaper price,” said visitor K in an interview with Yonhap News.

(left) Participants taste food in a traditional market (right); visitors purchase food at a cheaper price (photos courtesy of KTO).

In the afternoon, the members of the Kunsan team took part in a culture heritage tour, visiting Kunsan Port which provides the setting of many historical novels. Established in 1899, the city is well known for its port and for the rice grown in the region. The district has an excellent environment for rice planting. Thanks to the abundant water flowing in from Geumgang, Mangyeonggang and Dongjungang Mountains, the warm climate, and vast plains, the quality as well as the quantity of rice in Kunsan is known as the best in Korea. During the Japanese colonial period, over 300 Japanese people who had realized the advantages of the region lived in this area. A few Japanese houses and buildings remaining around the region tell the history.

The small region, with a population of only 588 people at the time of the opening of the port, started to develop by exporting rice to Japan. The population steadily expanded to 100,000 by the time the country was liberated from Japanese colonial rule in 1945. “I felt like I traveled back into the past and experienced the unique modern cultural heritage of the region,” said K.

Seocheon Special Market (photo courtesy of the KTO)

The group that visited Seocheon in Chungcheongnam-do (South Chungcheong Province) dropped by Seocheon Special Market to go grocery shopping and then moved to field of reeds located in Shinsung Village. The reeds are a famous spot where the movie JSA was shot. In the scene, a South Korean soldier (Lee Byung-heon) stepps on a land mine and comes across a North Korean solider (Shin Ha-gyun) who was just wandering around in the reeds. The two soldiers inevitably aim their guns towards each other, and Lee’s character breaks down pleading for his life. The sad scene that was imprinted in the memory of many people was filmed at the spot.

The reeds at Shingsung Village are some of the Korea’s best reeds. Stories about villagers entering into the reeds to bring some of the plants but being unable to find their way out reflect the vastness of the region. People in the region traditionally picked some branches and made brooms out of the reeds. Galby, a kind of broom, is a specialty of Shinsung area and known to be very strong to be used more than ten years.

Jeonju in Jeollabuk-do (North Jeolla Province) emphasized the green tourism aspect of the event. The team members took a train from Seoul to Jeolla where they boarded a bus to reach Jeonju Hanok Village. The environmentally friendly program was organized to help the people of the region.

Tourists heading to Jeonju explored the alleys in Hanok Village, which is part of the international network of Slow Cities, and also stopped by Nambu Market to indulge in the abundance of regional delicacies and rustic ambiance. The travelers not only purchased local goods but also took the time to interact with the local people, exemplifying the kind of tourism that operates on the principle of mutual exchange and seeks to positively impact communities.

By Lee Seung-ah
Korea.net Staff Writer
[Source: Korea.net]