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The Era of 8 Million Visitors

Posted November. 10, 2010 11:35,   


Traditional Korean lanterns welcoming G-20 summit guests are hung around Incheon International Airport and streetlights in downtown Seoul. Certain world leaders have arrived in Seoul and CEOs of global companies and the heads of international organizations are arriving on Korean soil. Around 10,000 people from around the world will visit Korea for the summit by Friday. Attention on Korea has grown among global media since the G-20 meeting of financial ministers and central bank governors last month in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, with more than 1,700 foreign correspondents applying for news coverage. If each one of them writes at least one story, 1,700 articles will be released. In other words, the world is watching Korea.

The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Time magazine, CNN and other news media are covering Korea. The latest issue of Time said, “Korea has become an innovator, an economy that doesn’t just make stuff,” and “Korea is the miracle of Asia.” The world will consider a Korean product differently if it perceives Korea as a decent and not an underdeveloped country.

Koreans have long welcomed guests with politeness and sincerity despite internal disputes. The G-20 Seoul summit should be held with the same mindset. Forcing people to use cars every other day as the government did for the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics is not what a developed country does, but if the people voluntarily refrain from driving and use public transportation to reduce traffic, it will represent an excellent spirit of citizenship. Welcoming guests should start from observing traffic regulations, not cutting in line at subway stations, escalators and restrooms, refraining from using cell phones on the subway or bus, and not smoking at bus stops.

Korean-made products remain undervalued under the notion of the “Korea discount” on the global market. If they are properly valued, Korea can reap an effect equivalent to exporting 250,000 cars per year.

The number of foreign visitors to Korea will set a record of eight million this year. Just as Koreans see tourist destinations, culture, people’s awareness and attitude while abroad, foreigners will evaluate Koreans constantly. Korea’s image is crucial since it will be covered along with the 10,000 visitors for the G-20 summit and 1,700 journalists. When the world sees a “beautiful Korea” and not an ugly one, the Korean economy and quality of life of Koreans will grow more affluent.