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Memories on Sale

Posted September. 08, 2005 07:28,   


Local governments are enjoying the popularity of cultural tourism products that evoke a sense of nostalgia for the lost days of youth.

One such town has bought an abandoned railway and is operating a steam locomotive. Another offers a literature-themed trip through fields abloom with buckwheat flowers, while stills others hold festivals featuring scarecrows or simulated military living conditions to entice visitors.

Tourism packages designed to appeal to people’s nostalgic yearning for the past not only promote the name and image of their host regions but also have a powerful effect on regional economies. As a result, they are being hailed as new high-value-added industries.

Looking for Memories—

The Seomjin River winds alongside Gokseong-gun, in Jeonnam Province, where a steam locomotive letting off a familiar whistle and white steam has been in operation along the 10km riverbank since April.

The county invested 2.3 billion won into purchasing the old Jeolla railway line and custom-ordering a three-car steam train. In just four months, the number of passengers has reached 147,000. Weekend rides are sold out down to the last “standing room only” ticket by tourists who come down in family units.

In Changdong-ri, in Gangwon Province, buckwheat flowers burst into bloom like white salt strewn across the fields. The childhood home of writer Lee Hyo-seok, famed for his novel “The Buckwheat Season,” can be found in this village, where the Hyo-seok Culture Festival is currently in full swing (September 2-11). Walking along a path cut through the 80,000-pyong buckwheat field, visitors find themselves awash in memories of childhood.

Director Kim Seong-gi (38) of the Hyo-seok Culture Festival Committee noted, “I believe we owe our success to the abundance of programs that let participants experience firsthand the romance and charm of the past, like our evening of literature and our buckwheat noodle-making event.” He added, “We attracted 450,000 visitors last year and reaped 10 to 15 billion won in direct and indirect economic effects.”

Gongeum-myeon, in Jeonbuk Province, offers neither convenient transportation nor notable cultural sites, but it still hosts over 300,000 tourists each year from all over the country. They flock here to see the buckwheat and green barley growing over the 300,000-pyong expanse of Hakwon Farm.

The Scarecrow Festival held in Jeongan-myeon, Chungnam Province, throughout August and September is also popular with tourists for the poignant nostalgia stirred up by the rural landscape.

Gwon Hye-suk (35), who lives in Busan, said, “I’d only learned about scarecrows from books I read as a child. I wanted to make one myself, so I visited the village last month with my family. It was a great learning experience for my kids.”

Reliving the Military Life—

Pohang-si, in Gyeongbuk Province, held its first-ever “Pohang Marine Festival” in July of last year. The event was created to commemorate the upgrade of Pohang to a city (or “si”) and the establishment of its Marine corps in 1949.

This year’s festival, which coincided with the commencement ceremony for the 1000th graduating class of Pohang’s Marine Corps on August 6, was attended by over 100,000 tourists alongside some 10,000 former Marines including 20 Marine reserves from the U.S., Germany, Australia, and Vietnam.

Nonsan-si, Chungnam Province, is home to the largest army training facility in the country. Next year, the city plans to introduce a tourism package that takes the “memories of military training” as its theme.

The two-day itinerary of the “Nonsan Training Camp Experience Festival” (tentative title), to be held in the Yeonmu-eup area of Nonsan-si in May and June, will include the stuff of such tough but rewarding memories as a ride on the conscription train, the wearing of trainee uniforms, marching, PRI training, meals in the mess hall, and “reporting ASAP.”