Mayor Han Dong-soo of Cheonsong County, North Gyeongsang Province, proudly notes that the county is the only one in Korea to win the UNESCO Certificate Global Geopark, and he plans to take advantage of the global designation in the tourism marketing campaigns.
The mayor said he will try to combine traditional local mores unique to the region, including the architecture, with the modern colors emanating from the Global Geopark designation to make the county a destination for tourists. Following are excerpts from an interview with the mayor.
A shot of Mt. Juwang in Cheongsong County taken by photographer Moon Su-bok'
A photo of a scene from the Ice Climbing Championship held this year at Cheongsong County where many foreign mountain climbers competed.
Question: Can you please tell us about the international brands that Cheongsong County has, such as the UNESCO Certificate of the Global Geopark?
Answer: The world now is in the age of brand and story. If a county doesn’t have those, it will fall behind the intensive competition for survival among the local autonomous entities. The Cheongsong County has three global brands, including the UNESCO Certificate of Global Geopark, the Slow City Certificated by Cittaslow, the Ice Climbing World Cup (sponsored by the International Mount Climbing Federation), making Cheongsong County unique among all the counties in North Gyeongsang Province.
Q: Can you please tell us the process that the county went through in obtaining the UNESCO Certificate as Geopark?
A: Our county began with a declaration for its plan to secure Geopark status in 2010. In 2011, we took a survey to study the feasibility, which helped to evaluate the geological inheritance of the county. In 2012, we identified 24 locations with outstanding geological qualities through a study on the county’s geological features. We established the information plaques, the geological exploration roads, and the viewing facilities for those geological features, all of which are basic to geological tourism of the county.
In 2013, we clinched the State Geopark certificate to become only the fourth State Geopark in Korea. In 2015, the county won the nomination to be the only candidate for UNESCO Geopark in Korea following a year of hard work to solidify its status as a State Geopark in Korea. In November 2015, we submitted the application to UNESCO for designation as the Global Geopark and got the certificate.
Q: Could you explain to us the county’s public relations plan for UNESCO Geopark Certificate?
A: Korea has been running the State Geopark system since 2012 when the Ministry of Environment revised the Natural Park Law. So far, Korea has eight geoparks, including Ullung Island, Dokdo, Jeju Island, Busan and Cheongsong. There are 127 geoparks designated by UNESCO in 35 countries around the world as of May 2017. There are only two geoparks in Korea, Cheongsong and Jeju Island. Korea has been able to use the UNESCO logo as the geoparks in Korea have been getting the support from UNESCO.
Korea has used the UNESCO logo since November 2015, when its geoparks officially joined the UNESCO program, providing a great help to the public relations programs for geoparks in Korea.
Cheongsong County will continue to strengthen its public relations programs for its geopark designation through events at the highway rest facilities, and also by educating the local residents so that the county’s Geopark Designation will be known widely.
Q: Please name some of the most well-known tourist places in Cheongsong County?
A: The county has Mt. Juwang, boasting its year-long tourism assets, Jusanji, which changes its tourism assets every season, the Cheolgol Valley, endowed with fantastic sceneries and the Ice Valley, which is icy even during the summer, to name some.
A scene from the Baeksok Valley in Cheongsong County taken by cameraman Yoon Ki-dong.
A scene of Bangho Stream in Cheongsong County taken by photographer Cho Seong-geun.
Q: Please enlighten us about your strategies for attracting tourists to the county?
A: Our strategies are focused on specializing our tourism resources around the county to turn them into a cultural ecological-type “green tourism” industry to help spur the local economy. Today’s main tourism theme is “green tourism,” with tourists tending to choose participating locations based on things like nature. The tendency is for tourists to now go to places with a large focus on environment friendly themes, and places that boast the importance of the preservation of the environment. So we at the county plan to focus on spurring the local tourism industry with special efforts on ecological parks, mountain resorts, the leisure industry and “wellbeing foods” with local ingredients to continue to develop tourism products that tourists can enjoy.
Q: What are the tourism contents you have now, and what do you plan to develop going forward?
A: Our plans are to add to the tourism contents we have now, which are made up of artifacts and traditional foods, with products related to the Geopark and to develop Geopark tourism products unique to us. For example, our apples are well known for their special qualities, but they also have a special color due to the fact that they are produced in a region which is made up of volcanic and sedimentary rocks from the Cretaceous Period of the Mesozoic Age.
Tourists can not only physically feel the geology and special environment of the region, but can experience the educational and physical activities that can only be offered by tourist products provided in Cheongsong County.
The unique customer experience is the representative tourism product of the county, including not only simple lodging, but also the traditional architecture developed by our ancestors’ wisdom to beat the region’s cold and dry spells, which created contributed to the culture of the region with special colors.
We will continue to explore ideas for tourism products and provide the support.