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Korean parks: Admission Fees by Any Other Name

Chosun Ilbo, Sept 17, 2007

Seoul, South Korea -- The government has decided to raise facility fees in the national parks during peak seasons by up to 25 percent starting Oct. 1, just 10 months since the government abolished the W1,600 (US$1=W928) admission fees.

It has designated six months out of the year - April to May (spring), July to August (summer) and October to November (fall) as peak seasons, during which fees for parking spaces, shelters, campsites, log cabins and other facilities will be raised by between W1,000 and W10,000.

Parking fees, which cost W1,000 plus W200 for every 10 minutes will be raised to W250 per 10 minutes. The parking lots in Korea’s 20 national parks are used by 1 million people each year. There are 20 shelters and 36 campsites visited by 100,000 people annually.

In September last year, the government and the ruling party announced to great fanfare that they were abolishing admission fees to national parks to meet rising demand for recreational and fitness facilities by minimizing the financial burden for such places for low-income Koreans.

But Buddhist temples located in national parks continued to charge admission fees for a look at their cultural treasures, while some temples even raised them by W400 to W800. The government’s decision to raise facility fees in the national parks will in fact increase the financial burden on the public. The public cannot help but feel cheated.

In December last year, the Ministry of Environment and Korea National Parks Authority had considered raising facility fees only during the high season in July and August and October and November, when visitors flock to mountains to enjoy the autumn leaves.

The idea was to raise facility fees during those four months to make up for revenue lost from admission fees. The government at the time decided not to adopt this plan but to make up for lost revenue by saving money in other areas. But now, not only has it raised the facility fees but lengthened the peak season to six months.

The government’s excuse for the fee hike was that a 43 percent rise of hikers has raised concerns of damage to the forests. The government, which had called on more people to use national parks, citing the need for recreation and fitness is now penalizing them for following the call.

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