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North Korean threats already affecting tourism

North Korean threats already affecting tourism

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A tour agent catering to South Korea tourists said if North Korea makes good on its threat, Guam will be finished.
Kyla Mora/PDN

Visiting tourists and others cross the street after a quick passing shower near the T Galleria building in Tumon on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017. (Photo: Rick Cruz/PDN)

The recent escalation in threats from North Korea appears to be having a mixed effect on South Korean tourism to Guam.

The island receives about 1.3 million tourists per year, primarily from Asia. Surging visitor arrivals from South Korea this year have made the country Guam’s main visitor market, surpassing Japan. For July, Guam saw 61,097 visitors from South Korea.

In a statement released Wednesday, Guam Visitors Bureau President and CEO Jon Denight assured travelers that Guam was “a safe and protected island destination” and noted a record number of visitors so far this year.

Alupang Residence President Tae S. Oh addresses the Rotary Club of Guam on Thursday, Aug. 10. (Photo: Kyla P Mora | PDN)

After speaking to the Rotary Club of Guam monthly meeting Thursday, Alupang Residence President Tae S. Oh said there was little evidence of Korean tourists scared off by the threat.

“I know for a fact that there haven’t been any cancellations, but there have been some concerns. We have received some concerned messages,” Oh said.

After years of living in North Korea’s shadow, Oh said he believes the average South Korean tourist isn’t so easily startled.

“I think they have become accustomed to it after so many years,” Oh said. “I think they are almost numb to the threat from North Korea. So why not still travel?”

John S. Ko, president of tourism company NET Enterprises Inc., described a different scenario.

John S. Ko, President of NET Enterprises INC (Photo: PDN File Photo)

“We shouldn’t be worried, but according to our reservation system online, many cancellations,” Ko said. “I think we are OK. We are blessed that we’re on American soil and we have the strongest military in the world. But there have been many cancellations.”

Ko said his staff in Seoul, with whom he communicated on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, told him people in South Korea appear to be less worried about the threat.

“Right now Koreans are not worried about Guam,” Ko said.

Ko said he’s more concerned that U.S. President Donald Trump will take action before North Korea does, which he fears will prompt China and Russia to get involved.

Poll: Do you think the North Korea threats will have a negative impact on Guam tourism? Poll closes at 5 p.m. Aug. 11, 2017.

No matter who acts first, Ko said he believes Guam’s tourism-reliant economy will be gutted if military action is taken, and that Japanese tourists will abandon Guam entirely if any bombs are dropped in the region.

“It doesn’t matter who pulls the trigger first. If a bomb is dropped, ports and airports are the first to shut down. Economically, Guam will be finished,” Ko said. “I’ll probably have to close my office and move away from here.”

Reporter Kyla Mora covers Guam’s business community, economy, tourism, public health, and anything else that catches her interest. Follow her on Twitter @kylapmora. Follow Pacific Daily News on Facebook/GuamPDN and Instagram @guampdn.

 

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