Korea's rural villages transform into alternative tour destinations

Andong Traditional Hanok house

With the acceleration of urbanization in Korea, a visit to a rural village has become a unique and memorable opportunity not only for Korean city dwellers but also foreign visitors.

Responding to the rising demand for rural tourism, the state-run Korea Rural Community Corp. under the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries developed the "Rural 20" tour programme in 2010 to offer foreign residents and visitors a chance to experience the beauty and authenticity of the country's rural areas.

At the beginning of every year since 2010, the KRC has selected 20 rural and fishing villages that boast beautiful scenery and well-preserved traditional culture under four themes: "Experience," "Nature," "Orient Traditional Culture" and "Well-being."

This year, the corporation expanded its selection to 25 rural and fishing villages, including Sumi Village in Yangpyeong, Gyeonggi Province, and Jeouri Village in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, under the Rural 20 project early this year.

The KRC worked with the selected rural villages to develop short and long tour programs for foreign visitors, combining the rural-experience villages with countryside tourist attractions.

The KRC financially supports foreign visitors who join the programme with the aim of promoting the rural areas as tourist attractions.

Participants are attracted through an array of communication channels from online to foreign community bulletin boards.

About 1,000 foreign travelers have experienced the programme as of Oct. 30, according to the KRC, and another 300 international travelers are expected to take advantage of it by year's end.

Experiences that participants in the 2013 Rural 20 project gained are varied depending on the tour theme and uniqueness of villages.

Participants who went to Jeouri Village in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, have the opportunity to practice traditional Korean archery and to walk through the nearby Hahoe Folk Village, which is well known for its preservation of Joseon-style architecture and folk traditions. They also visit a fishing area at the west-facing Jukbyeon Harbor in Uljin, North Gyeongsang Province, to watch the sunset.

Travelers to Sumi Village in Yangpyeong make traditional sweet pumpkin bread and go rafting in the valley near the village.

The KRC said feedback from foreign participants was positive in general.

Participant Tanaka Yuki said, "I appreciate the programme organizer in that I had memorable moments through a unique and rare experience in Korean rural villages. I am willing to promote the beauty of Korean rural areas to my international friends."

KRC plans to support around 300 foreign travelers and inbound travel agencies targeting foreign visitors to experience rural village tour programs. To join the programme, contact (031) 420-3575 (KRC) or (02) 728-8702 (Modu Tour Agency).