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S. Koreans venture out to remote campgrounds to avoid crowds, virus

Retail/Tourism 14:04 May 15, 2020

SEOUL, May 15 (Yonhap) -- Even the relentless novel coronavirus pandemic does not seem to have stopped Koreans' love of the outdoors.

State and private campgrounds are getting more reservations, as restless people seek to stretch their legs, get some fresh air and relax without worrying about the virus, after two months of intensive social distancing in response to COVID-19.

A man cooks at a campground in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on May 14, 2020. (Yonhap)

On Wednesday, a 40-year-old man, surnamed Ko, was seen preparing a late lunch at a camp site in the eastern seaside city of Gangneung, Gangwon Province.

He had taken days off to make the trip of a few hours to the campground, popular for its pine trees and ocean views, with his family.

Driving all the way from Namyangju in Gyeonggi Province was definitely worth it, he said, as his family could spend time by themselves in nature while keeping a distance from others.

Campers relax at a car camping site in Haman, South Gyeongsang Province, on May 12, 2020. (Yonhap)

According to the city, the campsite runs at around 60 percent of its full capacity during weekdays and 100 percent during weekends.

"Usually this time of the year is off-season because kids go to school. But we see more visitors this year," said an official of the campground, referring to the prolonged closure of schools due to the spread of the coronavirus.

Amid warmer weather and eased social distancing rules, more people are trying to find a way to return to life before the pandemic. One way is to venture out to remote and less crowded places with a small group of close friends and loved ones.

Another campsite in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi Province, was also full Thursday morning, with families, couples and even lone travelers having breakfast, chatting over tea, or taking a peaceful stroll.

"I feel anxious being around people in the city, but I can feel at ease here," one traveler, 33, who wished to remain anonymous, told Yonhap News Agency. "I take days off on weekdays because it is hard to make a reservation at weekends."

Children relax at a car camping site in Haman, South Gyeongsang Province, on May 12, 2020. (Yonhap)

With more people attracted to such outdoor leisure facilities to avoid the coronavirus, camp sites are stepping up quarantine measures.

They disinfect facilities on a daily basis, offer hand sanitizers, check visitors' temperatures and have them write down contact details in case of an outbreak.

Officials at a car camping site at the Mongsanpo beach in South Chungcheong Province play radio broadcasts about COVID-19 precautions 10 times a day.

Visitors have risen by 15 percent from a year ago, particularly because overseas travel has become almost impossible, according to the officials.

A campground run by the city of Daegu, formerly the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, saw more than 100 visitors on the first day of its reopening early this month, after a two-month shutdown.

No spot is available during weekends until the end of June, and it will soon be fully booked on weekdays as well, according to the campground.

jaeyeon.woo@yna.co.kr
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