By Yun Suh-young
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on Monday announced an ambitious plan to promote the country's food culture as it looks to help increase the number of tourists in regions other than the Seoul metropolitan area.
The campaign, which will be carried out by the Korea Tourism Organization, will continue through Dec. 15 and focus on highlighting regional culinary specialties.
The measure comes after Culture Minister Yoo Jin-ryong talked about shifting the focus of government support from the entertainment industry to food or "hansik" and architecture in the efforts to extend "hallyu" or the Korean culture boom.
Food appears to be increasing as an attraction for travelers here. According to a KTO survey of tourists, about 15.2 percent of the respondents said that food was an important reason in their traveling decisions, significantly up from 6.2 percent in 2008.
The government also plans to launch a similar promotional campaign for "hanok," or traditional Korean houses, in December.
"Food has always been an important part of Japan's power as a tourist destination and we believe we can better utilize our own strength in food culture," said Kim Young-ho, executive vice president for tourism competitiveness at the KTO.
"We also have plenty of opportunities to attract tourists with food. It's important to promote specific food in a specific region based on local ingredients. Also, we need to promote seasonal food in the region to attract tourists."
The food tourism campaign includes promotion of five popular food streets in Seoul, Gangneung in Gangwon Province, Namwon in North Jeolla Province, and Daegu and Busan as well as themed food tours such as train travel for food tourism, and Korean rice wine, farm, local food cooking, market and healthy food tours.
Information about the food tours is available in Korean at the KTO website, food.visitkorea.or.kr, but the information is not yet available in English. The KTO plans to add English information on a separate webpage in the near future.