South Korean actor, rapper Ok is new tourism envoy

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South Korean rapper and actor Ok Taec-yeon has been chosen as Taiwan’s tourism ambassador in South Korea for this year and next year, the Tourism Bureau said yesterday.

Ok arrived at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at about noon yesterday and is to spend the next three days shooting a short film for the bureau.

He replaces South Korean actor Yeo Jin-goo, who served as the nation’s tourism ambassador from 2016 to last year.

Asked about the change, Huang Yi-ping (黃怡平), a section head at the International Travel Division, said that South Korea is a fast-changing tourism market and the bureau was seeking a South Korean celebrity who projects a healthy and lively image, and can appeal to female tourists.

“Ok was honorably discharged in May from mandatory military service and he speaks a little Mandarin, which makes him an ideal choice,” she said.

As this year’s tourism theme is visiting small towns in Taiwan and next year’s is mountain tourism, the film would highlight attractions associated with small towns and mountains across the nation, with Ok playing a time traveler in the story, the bureau said.

Before flying to Taiwan, Ok said that he wanted to use this opportunity to explore Taiwanese scenic spots and food, and practice Chinese.

He said that he would upload to his Instagram account behind-the-scene photographs about the film over the next three days, so that his fans in South Korea can get to know more about Taiwan’s tourist spots.

Taiwan offers several advantages that have drawn more South Korean tourists, Tourism Bureau Director-General Chou Yung-hui (周永暉) said.

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Given its proximity, travel between the two nations takes only two-and-a-half hours by airplane, he said, adding that Taiwan’s culture and cuisine, as well as its friendly and safe travel environment, are well-liked by South Korean tourists.

To promote tourism in South Korea, “the bureau has used a mixed strategy of picking idols who appeal to young people and working with popular travel programs,” he said.

South Korea is the fourth-largest source of foreign tourists to Taiwan, with the number of number of travelers exceeding 1 million in 2017 and last year, Chou said.

The number of South Korean tourists already hit 555,565 in the first half of this year, growing 9.69 percent from a year earlier, he said, adding that there was a significant growth of travelers in their 20s or 30s.

These figures show that the strategies used to target the South Korean market have proven effective, he said.

The film would be shown online and at tourism expositions, traffic hubs and shopping districts in South Korea, the bureau said.

The bureau added that it is forming a task force with the Construction and Planning Agency (CPA) to allow specialists from both agencies to jointly develop mountain tourism products to prepare for next year’s tourism theme.

The task force would also incorporate resources from the Council of Indigenous Peoples, the Hakka Affairs Council and the Forestry Bureau.

The Tourism Bureau and the CPA have agreed in principle that all mountains in national parks would be open to tourists, with the latter streamlining procedures that hikers must follow, including reserving rooms at mountain lodges, by building a one-stop platform.

The CPA, the Tourism Bureau and the Forestry Bureau would jointly plan five hiking routes and seven mountain tour routes to showcase the nation’s natural environment and culture, the Tourism Bureau said.

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