Seoul develops tourism infrastructure
Seoul significantly increases its role as an all-in-one hub for tourism in 2011 as two new high-speed rail services are added to the South Korean capital’s already extensive rail network. Dramatically cutting down commuter times, last month saw a direct rail link opened between Incheon International Airport and downtown Seoul ahead of plans to build the city’s largest convention center to date near the terminus, while the new Gyeongchun Line now bridges the divide between Seoul and Chuncheon, metropolitan capital of nearby Gangwon Province and famous for its cuisine and lake district scenery.
Although Incheon International Airport has frequently won the World’s Best award - including in 2010 by Airports Council International - visitors have been less glowing about the heavy traffic across the 58km journey into Seoul City. In addition, the extant airport-metro rail link includes several stops in transit and terminates at Gimpo International Airport, requiring passengers to switch over to the Seoul subway system.
The new underground line, at a cost of approximately USD $12.00 (approximately KRW 13,500) per person, can deliver passengers from Incheon Airport to Seoul Station, the city’s central transport terminus, in about 40 minutes, less than half the travel time of the other services. Commuters may purchase rechargeable transport cards in the airport arrivals lounge or at the airport station itself prior to departure.
The new rail link comes at a time when plans are underway to revitalize the Seoul Station area, which in 2015 will see the completion of a new convention center and business park. Dubbed ‘Seoul Station Convention Center’, the new complex will include Korea’s largest conference facility (23,000?) and an exhibition space (16,000?) that will total over 50,000?, a multipurpose cultural space that will be larger than COEX (46,400?), currently Seoul’s main exhibition venue. It will also include a 3,000-seat international conference center.
At present, Seoul’s key conference facilities lie south of the river in Gangnam, including the COEX and SETEC convention centers, as well as renowned top business hotels such as the J.W. Marriott, Grand Hyatt and Westin Chosun. The new complex is expected to revitalize the Gangbuk district’s convention industry as well as significantly contribute to the uniform development of the Gangbuk and Gangnam districts, a perennial issue for Seoul’s urban growth.
Meanwhile, Seoul’s Gyeongchun Line launched on December 21st its new double-track rail service between the city’s Sangbong Station and Chuncheon at a fee of approximately USD2.30 (KRW2,600). The new high-speed services significantly cut down current travel times from the standard 110 minutes’ duration previously: the regular service will now take approximately 79 minutes, while the express service will take 63 minutes. The original Mugunghwa rail link operated out of Seoul’s Cheongnyangni Station. Travelers can reach the Gyeongchun Line via Sangbong Station (subway Line 7) or Mangu Station (Jungang Line).
In celebration of the new high-speed rail link, visitors traveling from Chuncheon can ride in a special Hallyu, or Korean Wave-themed tourist train. The unique service is available weekends until September 25th.
The shortened commuter time makes Chuncheon an ideal day-trip destination for regular and business tourists with a free day in their stopover schedules. Famous for its lakes and island resort getaways, Chuncheon is also well-known to Asian visitors as the backdrop for the popular Korean television drama, Winter Sonata, including the major attraction and resort island of Namiseom. The popular Korean dish, dak galbi, or barbecued chicken ribs, originated in the region, with several popular downtown restaurants well-known for serving the most authentic version.