“It’s hard to find a hotel room”… A destination that is rising even in the face of population extinction

If you drive along the coastal road on the east coast of Yeongdo in Busan, you will come across a white ship-shaped building. It is a complex cultural space ‘Piaq’ built in 2021 in the former shipbuilding repair factory. I visited this place on the 30th, and there was no time to set foot because of the people who flocked to it despite the heat wave.

There is no subway station in Piak, and public transportation is barren as only one bus No. 66 stops at the ‘Michang Petroleum’ stop, which is a 2-minute walk away. Nevertheless, energy overflowed from lovers who enjoyed coffee while gazing at the scenery of Busan Port through the window, and art lovers who wanted to see the David Hockney exhibition in the underground exhibition space.

More tourist consumption than Haeundae

Yeongdo, an underdeveloped area of ​​Busan, is facing the ‘population crisis’ by transforming itself into a ‘hot place’ of the MZ generation (millennials + generation Z). Shipyards and factories have been renovated into spots for ‘certified shots’, and it is difficult to find a room at hotels with tourist attractions such as La Valse and Grand Bern, where you can see Busan Port and Yeongdodaegyo Bridge at a glance.

Yeongdo-gu in Busan was selected as a ‘region of concern for extinction’ as a result of applying the ‘ K- fat extinction index’ newly developed by the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade and announced in November last year. Among the 50 areas concerned about extinction, there are only three basic local governments at the gu level under metropolitan cities: Seo-gu in Busan and Dong-gu in Ulsan.

According to the Korea Tourism Data Lab of the Korea Tourism Organization on the 30th, the amount of tourism consumption in Yeongdo-gu in the first half of this year (January to June) increased by 18.6% compared to the same period last year. This is 5.6 times higher than Haeundae-gu (3.3%), a representative tourist destination in Busan. Compared to the overall average of Busan (11.1%), the national average (9.3%) and Seoul (10.8%), the range is much larger.

The number of tourists who visited Yeongdo in Busan last month was 1.62 million. It is 15.1 times the population of Yeongdo-gu (107,000) in the same month. In June 2020, 1.29 million tourists visited Yeongdo, which is a 25.6% increase in three years. Compared to June 2018 (1.18 million) five years ago, it increased by 37.3%.

Shipyards and 

empty houses have cafes and galleries

There was a successful urban regeneration project led by the private sector behind the large increase in tourists in Yeongdo, where there were no famous tourist destinations other than Taejongdae. Under the leadership of local companies and small business owners, such as Samjin Fish Cake, Shinki Industry, and Jeil Group, the decline of shipyards, factories, and vacant houses in the region have been reborn as complex cultural spaces and cafes one after another.

During the Japanese colonial era, Yeongdo was home to Korea’s first modern shipbuilder, Chosun Heavy Industries ( HJ Heavy Industries), and the shipbuilding and shipbuilding industries prospered. In 1980, the population reached 213,000. However, the decline of the shipbuilding industry in Busan and the relocation of Busan City Hall near Yeongdo to Yeonsan-dong in 1998 led to the rapid decline of the old downtown commercial district. As of the end of June, the population had fallen to 107,000. Along with the population decline, the aging rate has also soared. The rate of aging in Yeongdo-gu is 28.9%, which is much higher than that of other local governments in Busan, such as Haeundae-gu (18.5%).

The local economy, which had been collapsing, has been revitalized since around 2021, when the Corona 19 crisis was in full swing, as local businesses and young entrepreneurs visited the area to create attractions. Samjin Eomuk’s ‘Area Six’, a complex cultural space built near its headquarters on Taejong-ro 99beon-gil, is a representative example.

In 2021, Samjin Fish Cake, a local company in Busan, transformed the place where there were 6 neglected empty houses between the headquarters and Bongrae Market through an urban regeneration program. There are stores of local brands in Busan, such as Samjin Fish Cake, Songwol Towel, and Mergerbon, as well as a gardening shop, grocery store, and co-working space for local small businesses. A virtuous cycle was created in which people who came to take photos against the backdrop of a ‘hip’ space shop for local brand products and visit스포츠토토 the traditional market (Bongrae Market) right next door.

As a result, the tourist attractions that tourists mainly visit in Yeongdo have changed. According to the Korea Tourism Data Lab, in 2018, traditional tourist destinations such as Taejongdae, Maritime Museum, and Yeongdodaegyo Bridge were concentrated, but last year, new places such as Huinnyeoul Culture Village, Piaq, La Valse Hotel, and Samjin Fish Cake Memorial Hall were listed at the top.

Busan, No. 1 in non-metropolitan areas in foreign tourist spending

Starting with Yeongdo, the tourism industry in Busan as a whole is also much more active than other regions this year, attracting the attention of local governments across the country. In the first half of this year, foreign tourism expenditure in Busan was 187.4 billion won, ranking first among non-metropolitan areas. Although it falls short of Seoul (1.592 trillion won), it is 2.7 times that of Jeju (67.3 billion won), a representative tourist destination in Korea, and 10.8 times that of Gangwon (17.2 billion won).

Efforts are also being made to develop underdeveloped areas as tourist destinations under the leadership of companies in areas other than Yeongdo. In 2016, Korea Steel renovated the wire factory area in Mangmi-dong into a complex cultural space ‘ F1963′ . Hyundai Motor Studio, Kukje Gallery, Geumnansae Music Center, Yes 24, Terra Rosa, etc. have been built. Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel visited Busan on the 26th to attend the International Veterans Affairs Ministers’ Meeting.

‘Millak the Market’ in Millak-dong, which opened last year, has also emerged as a representative tourist destination. This place was also developed by Kitchen Boree, a food service company in Busan. Hoon Lee, a professor of tourism at Hanyang University, said, “The government or local governments need to make efforts to build infrastructure first. Attracting tourists can be an alternative to population extinction.”

▶ Interview with Ryu Je-hak, CEO of Piaq “I built a landmark instead of a chicken coop-type building… It became a representative tourist destination in Busan”

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