In South Korea, Summer Empties Gangwon' Beaches
Paul Chu, Aug. 22, 2017, 9:25 a.m.
Some 92 public beaches of Gangwon Province closed on Sunday as the summer season came to an end. According to provincial officials, the beaches drew 22.44 million visitors this summer, a drop of 8.7 percent compared to last year and the lowest number since 2012, when only 19.26 million people visited the beaches due to the impact of typhoon Bolaven.
Gangwon had targeted 30 million visitors this summer, but rainy weather and stronger-than-usual waves dashed these hopes.
Since opening on July 7, the beaches in Gangneung saw 30 days of rainfall, and those in Sokcho and Yangyang 25 days. In fact there were only two weekends in July and August when it did not rain somewhere in Gangwon Province.
Making matters worse, unusually high waves pounded the beaches for 11 days starting on Aug. 9, prompting officials to limit access to swimmers.
Sokcho and Yangyang had hoped that the new highway linking Seoul with the resort cities would boost the number of vacationers. But Sokcho saw 557,000 fewer visitors this year than last year and Yangyang saw 478,000 fewer.
Hyun Ok-ja (59), who has run a restaurant in Sokcho for 22 years, said, "I think the days are gone when the East Coast was considered a top vacation spot."
And Song Woon-gang at Kangwon National University said, "After peaking at 30.3 million in 2008, the number of vacationers to the East Coast has never surpassed 24 to 25 million. We need to create new tourist attractions that can draw tourists regardless of the weather."