Monday, December 14, 2009
Some more news about a semi-independent region of a country: the island of Jeju in the far south of Korea has surpassed 600,000 foreign visitors this year. Since Jeju is far away from the mainland, they are able to grant visa-free travel to a lot of countries that the rest of Korea doesn't allow, which includes visitors from China. Chinese visitors travelling to the rest of the country need to apply for a visa ahead of time, and vice versa for Koreans visiting China.
The numbers are:
Total - 602,234 as of 11 December vs. 512,135 at the same time last year (17.4% increase)
China - 249,170 (49% increase)
Japan - 176,267 (4.2% increase)
Taiwan - 40,114 (39% decrease)
Hong Kong - 14,426 (32.9% increase)
Singapore - 26,342 (12.7% increase)
Foreign visitors to Jeju surpassed 200,000 for the first time in 1990 with 235,073 visitors and it wasn't until 2004 that this surpassed 300,000 with 329,215 visitors that year. This then increased rapidly in 2006 and 2007 with 460,360 and 541,274 foreign visitors respectively. That was around the time it first became an autonomous province and began to be able to decide its own visa policy.
Weatherwise, the island is a bit like Vancouver Island or areas around Washington State, but warmer and wetter in the summer. Right this moment it's -1 in the capital Seoul, but +8 down in Jeju. The maritime climate also allows many trees to grow (like palm trees) that don't exist up here.
Jeju actually has quite a large population - 565,000 people over the whole island and the capital city has over 400,000 which is about the same population as Tallinn. It only feels small compared to the rest of the country. One interesting thing about Jeju though is that the airport is only a few minutes from the centre of the city so one could make the argument that it's a more convenient place than the capital Seoul in terms of being connected to the rest of the world, since the only way to get to Incheon Airport (the one that people in Seoul use) is to take the airport bus or drive directly, which takes about 70 minutes. 70 minutes after leaving the house in Jeju though one could already be on the plane and about to take off.
Here's where Jeju is located.
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And here's a temple I visited while there in 2006. The video feels kind of Blair Witchy but it really didn't feel like that at all when the video was taken. Well, maybe for some it might have.