Mon, Feb 25, 2019 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Taiwan, S Korea could join forces: envoy

Korean Mission in Taipei Representative Yang Chang-soo in an interview with ‘Taipei Times’ and ‘Liberty Times’ (sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’) reporters Stacy Hsu and Lu Yi-hsuan spoke about his plans to boost tourism between Taiwan and South Korea, as well as Taiwan’s assets that could attract visitors

Korean Mission in Taipei Representative Yang Chang-soo gestures during an interview in Taipei on Tuesday.

Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times

Question: The number of tourists traveling between Taiwan and South Korea last year surpassed 2 million, and both sides have expressed the hope to boost the number to 3 million. What are your short-term plans to achieve that goal?

Yang Chang-soo: We have indeed seen a steady increase in the number of [South] Korean tourists to Taiwan and vice versa. There are many reasons, one of them was the airing of popular Korean travel-reality show Grandpas Over Flowers in 2013.

There are also many eye-catching elements in both countries, including pop culture, entertainment and shopping.

In light of the growing number of tourists, the two governments have put in place several institutional measures, such as a memorandum of understanding [MOU] signed last year establishing a reciprocal program for automated immigration clearance. The program shortens the clearance time and has brought great convenience to travelers.

There are a number of suggestions I would like to make on how to further expand bilateral interactions.

We should offer more to people. For instance, the South Korean and Taiwanese governments could arrange a “year of mutual visits.” This would serve as an umbrella under which we could design various events about culture, sports, travel and more.

There are also the so-called “Taiwanese trend” in South Korea and the so-called “Korean wave” in Taiwan, which have been a key factor in our friendship. We can use that by arranging mutual visits by Taiwanese and [South] Korean celebrities.

I have noticed that Taiwanese tourists to South Korea often start with areas immediately adjacent to Seoul, while [South] Koreans visiting Taiwan often choose sites in Taipei and New Taipei City for their first trip.

The variety of tourist attractions is important and we should develop other potential tourist sites.

In July 2017, I drove around Taiwan and realized that there are many attractions here.

However, foreigners might not know the attractions worth visiting in Taiwan. I believe Taiwan would see better tourism results if it works to develop a greater variety of cultural products.

However, increasing 2 million visits to 3 million requires special efforts and ideas. At the moment, the Taiwanese and South Korean governments are negotiating an MOU on the mutual recognition of each other’s driver’s licenses. It would help attract more independent and young travelers. We are hoping that an agreement could be reached in the first half of this year.

Q: South Korea has been a popular destination for working holiday programs among Taiwanese and vice versa. Are there any improvements you would like to make to the program?

Yang: When I took over the helm at the mission in 2017, the annual working holiday visa acceptance quota was just 600, but it has been increased to 800.

The program is so popular that all the spots were almost filled up on the first day of this year’s application period on Jan. 3.

I believe that the program allows young people from both sides to learn about each other’s language, history, culture and way of life. It could also help cultivate talent that speak each other’s language, who could serve as an important bridge between Taiwan and South Korea for bilateral interactions and cooperation, particularly in the area of business.

The Korean Mission in Taipei holds an introduction seminar on the program every year, which is our way of maintaining communication with young people. We hope that concerned government agencies and key media outlets in Taiwan could also show an interest.

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