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(LEAD) Park calls for unique contents to attract foreign visitors

All News 20:04 March 10, 2016

(ATTN: RECASTS throughout with comments by Park; CHANGES headline)

SEOUL, March 10 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye on Thursday stressed the need to make full use of South Korea's unique cultural contents to attract foreign visitors, a move that underscored her push to promote the country's culture as a growth industry.

Park said South Korea can attract more foreign tourists if it promotes a program in which foreigners can stay in traditional wooden Korean houses and enjoy traditional cuisine.

"We need our unique culture to attract tourists," Park said at an innovation center in Daegu, an industrial city located about 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, noting about 1 million South Koreans traveled abroad during the Lunar New Year holiday last month.

She made the comments after receiving a briefing by the head of the innovation center in Daegu about the project to turn traditional Korean houses in the area into lodging facilities for foreign tourists.

Hotel Shilla, the luxury accommodation affiliate of Samsung Group, developed about a dozen menus to be provided by traditional Korean houses for foreign tourists.

Samsung Group, South Korea's largest family-controlled conglomerate, is linked to the innovation center in Daegu due apparently to its corporate history.

What began as a small trading company in the city that sold groceries in 1938 is now South Korea's No. 1 family-run conglomerate with businesses in electronics, engineering, insurance, clothing and an amusement park.

Samsung has launched a program worth 100 billion won (US$83 million) to offer job and education opportunities for 30,000 people for two years, according to the government.

South Korea has set up a total of 17 innovation centers across the country to match up local startups and venture firms with conglomerates, which can provide resources to smaller companies so that they can turn creative ideas into real businesses.

Park's trip to her political powerbase of Daegu, meanwhile, drew keen attention as rival parties gear up for the April 13 parliamentary elections.

The trip came amid a spike in tensions between rival factions within the ruling Saenuri Party over who will win nominations for the upcoming poll. The party has been rocked by wrangling between those who are loyal to Park and others who have been at odds with the president.

The latest visit came under the media spotlight as pro-Park candidates are running for seats in Daegu, which are currently held by lawmakers belonging to Park's rival faction.

There is speculation that Park's visit may be designed to give a much-needed boost to pro-Park candidates, who are trailing behind their rivals in opinion polls.

Still, Cheong Wa Dae, South Korea's presidential office, described Park's trip as something that is related to economics, not politics.

To highlight this point, the president toured an international textile fair before meeting with officials to talk about how to boost the local sports industry.

The trip is meant to help "spread the accomplishments of the creative economy," the presidential office said, referring to her key policy objective that calls for boosting the economy by turning creative ideas into real businesses with the help of cutting-edge science, expertise and information technology.

Last month, Park visited another innovation center in the central city of Daejeon as part of her efforts to revive the economy and create jobs.

Also Thursday, Park pledged to boost South Korea's sports industry as part of efforts to create more jobs, saying the sports industry has the potential for explosive growth.

Sales generated by the sports industry stood at 41 trillion won in 2014, 1.7 times as large as those of the tourism industry, according to official data.

"The sports industry has the potential for explosive growth when it is combined with various fields, including manufacturing and services industry," Park said in a speech at a separate meeting with sports officials in Daegu.

Besides such matters, Park called for national unity to better cope with threats posed by North Korea's provocations.

She made the comments at the opening ceremony for a new office building of the North Gyeongsang Provincial government in Andong, about an 80-minute drive away from Daegu.


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