SEOUL, March 22 (Korea Bizwire) - South Korean travelers are showing interest in a remote part of Greece, while cities here that are home to former mines and military facilities are undertaking major uplifts to attract Chinese tourists, thanks to a TV drama that has been a stellar success.
Local travel agencies said Tuesday they have been getting inquiries about tour programs to Zakynthos, one of the Ionian Islands of Greece that is the background of the currently running South Korean drama “Descendants of the Sun.” The drama is set in a make-believe country called Uruk, but the starring couple has been filmed on the island and at its Navagio Beach, known for the shipwrecked vessel from 1980 that still rests in the sand, and highlighted in a scene where the drama’s love-struck couple take a stroll. The drama commands a near-30 percent viewership.’
The tourism division of the online shopping mall Interpark put out a new nine-day package tour to Greece that includes visits to the beach. Company officials said there were immediate reservations. Very Good Tour earlier this month similarly launched a nine-day trip to Greece with an overnight stay on Zakynthos. The tour program goes straight to the island after starting in Athens. The travel agency had more than 120 reservations within two weeks after the package was put on the market. Naeil Tour is offering free travel courses to Athens and Zakynthos together.
At home, cities that were featured in the drama are developing content that can be featured on tours to attract visitors from China, where the drama has also drawn a large viewership. They are hoping for a repeat of “Winter Sonata,” a drama from 2002 regarded as the launcher of the K-culture boom, which drew fans from across Asia to sites where it was filmed, mostly places that were hitherto unknown.
The scenes of the military barracks shown in “Descendants of the Sun,” in which the lead male actor plays an Army captain, were filmed at a former mine in the eastern city of Taebaek and at Camp Greaves in Paju, north of Seoul, that used to be a U.S. military base.
The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) plans to invite foreign press members and travel agencies to the sites to promote them as new tour destinations.
“Like ‘Winter Sonata,’ dramas introduce new things for people to see in not-so-known places,” an official at KTO said. “We need to add new content rather than having foreign tourists just come to the sites.”
TV programs have often presented ideas for travelers. The “Over Flowers” series run by a local cable channel, which groups actors and actresses and sends them on unguided trips to foreign countries on a set budget, had created travel booms to Taiwan and most recently to Namibia.
“Namibia wasn’t a country that many South Koreans have been heading to,” said a Hana Tour agent. “But after the TV program, inquiries and reservations followed. We now have a set group tour scheduled to depart.”