BUSAN, South Korea — On Wednesday, November 21, Korea’s 10 millionth tourist (probably) walked through the gates of Incheon International. It’s a probable guess for a country that’s counted 9.46 million tourists in 2012 as of October 31, and is expecting around 11 million by New Year’s.
When you consider that the ROK saw only 10,000 tourists circa 1961, a figure which slowly rose to five million by the new millennium, the last decade has produced a massive jump with its K-pop craze and leading-class tech leaps.
But these 10 million aren’t doing enough. The Ministry of Tourism clocks in only 5.2 percent of Korea’s annual GDP, nearly half of the global average of 9.1 percent. But, at least, we may imagine one lucky person’s celebration, as s/he, the first 10 millionth, got rained down upon by colorful confetti and balloons in the middle of the airport on November 21.