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(LEAD) Hwang urges efforts to boost tourism amid THAAD concerns

All News 18:30 January 19, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS more info in para 10)

SEOUL, Jan. 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn on Thursday urged policymakers to pursue stable growth in tourism amid growing industry concerns about the impact of diplomatic rows with neighboring China and a recent outbreak of avian influenza.

"We have to continue efforts to achieve qualitative growth in the tourism industry and enhance its competitiveness so as to join the ranks of cultural, tourism powerhouses," he said during a regular meeting of Cabinet ministers on state affairs.

"We have to foster stable growth by attracting tourists from various other countries (and regions), including Japan, Southeast Asia, Europe and Africa," he added.

South Korea's Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn (2nd from R) speaks during a regular meeting of Cabinet ministers on state affairs at the central government complex in Seoul on Jan. 19, 2017. (Yonhap)

Hwang made the remarks amid growing concerns that China's vehement opposition to the planned deployment of a U.S. missile defense system to South Korea could have a negative impact on the local tourism industry.

In apparent retaliation against the plan to deploy a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to the peninsula, Beijing has taken a series of steps against South Korean businesses and enterprises, though it has not confirmed whether the steps have anything to do with the deployment issue.

Local tourism-related businesses have been increasingly concerned about possible ramifications of Beijing's opposition to THAAD, as the number of Chinese tourists to the country accounts for nearly half of the total.

Government data showed that the number of Chinese tourists to South Korea stood at 8.04 million last year, nearly half of the total 17 million foreign visitors.

At the meeting, Hwang also pointed out that despite concerns about a possible decrease in the number of Chinese tourists, the number of Chinese, who have made reservations to visit South Korea during China's spring holiday season between Jan. 27 and Feb. 2, rose some 5 percent to 140,000 from a year earlier.

Hwang, in addition, called for efforts to create new tourism programs, including those targeting tourists coming to South Korea for medical purposes.

Later in the day, Hwang met with local small manufacturers, praising their role in creating jobs and vowing to offer "active" support.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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