South Korea’s Volcanic Island of Jeju Prepares for 3.8 millions Tourists

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Posted by Tudor Cozma

The island of Jeju, a special autonomous region of south Korea, is considered one of the country’s top vacation and honeymoon destinations. The island has already gained recognition from UNESCO, and nine of its sites were designated geological attractions of “geoparks” last month. Also, three years ago UNESCO named three heritage sites on the island. Sunrise Peak holds both titles, and is also the most popular tourist attraction in Jeju, created some two million years ago by volcanic eruptions.

Thousands of school children and tourists hike the narrow path toward the top, in an arduous hour-long trek. As a geologist, Jeon Yongmun has made this trip more than 100 times, checking for weather and tourist erosion on the site. The crater is visible at the top from a distance, however Jeon warns that walking on it is too dangerous because it is full of snakes.

In 2006 Sunrise Peak has attracted 2.2 million visitors, and this year it is expected to attract 3.8 million visitors. According to Jeju’s provincial government, the number of foreign tourists has increased 108 percent in just four years.

Manjang Caves is another World Heritage site, consisting of a series of caverns created 200,000 years ago by lava tubes from the volcano. The lava columns and the scale are very big and wide, and the temperature drops ten degrees into the caves. Checking the temperature and the carbon dioxide levels on the way, Jeon found that humidity is at least 90 percent.

Increasingly more Chinese tourists are drawn toward Jeju, prompting authorities to encourage direct Chinese investment. Luxury housing projects are now springing up all across the island, and Malaysian developers Berjaya are building a $3.6 billion resort which will include a hotel, a shopping center and a casino. According to Berjaya project director Tang Vui Woon, due to the influx of tourists from China and Japan the company will be targeting the Chinese market.

Also, a new neighborhood and gold course currently under development nearby already seems successful among Chinese investors. So far, 220 holiday homes have already been sold, and half of them now have Chinese owners. Moreover, the government makes the deals even more attractive: any foreigner who buys a condominium that costs more than $500,000 is automatically granted a long-stay visa, and after five years one can claim permanent residency.

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Category: News @ Jeju Island