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  June 29, 2002  

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The Koreas



KT to carry on with popular IT tours after Cup
SEOUL - Keen interest by foreign journalists and information-technology firms in the IT tours conducted by KT Corp, South Korea's largest telecom company, during the World Cup has prompted the company to keep them going after the soccer extravaganza ends.

KT and KTF invited foreign reporters who were here to cover the World Cup to experience South Korea's IT business through displays and tours called "Cyber Kick-Off Korea IT Tour 2002" from June 3-24. A total of 144 journalists from 40 countries took part. "Though most of the reporters who visited Korea for the Cup were sportswriters, they also had a great interest in the IT tour program, saying it will publicize Korea's IT industry to the world," KT officials said.

KT also plans to develop new IT tour programs in conjunction with the nation's leading IT companies such as Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics. (Jun 28)

Koizumi gives Schroeder a lift to final
TOKYO - The Japanese government has agreed to let German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, in Canada for the Group of Eight summit meeting, fly to Japan on its official plane so that he can attend the World Cup final on Sunday, in which Germany's national soccer team meets Brazil.

Schroeder asked the Japanese on Wednesday if he could hitch a ride. Japan granted Schroeder's wish on condition that "the chancellor and other senior members of the German government will be under Japanese administration during the flight", a government official said. The Japanese Defense Agency said that while on their plane, all Schroeder's communications would be channeled through the Japanese government even in the event of a national emergency in Germany. Four German aides will accompany the chancellor on the flight from Canada.

The flight will give Schroeder an opportunity to have an unprecedented summit meeting in the air with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who also attended the G-8 summit on Wednesday and Thursday. Germany advanced to the final of the quadrennial soccer tournament by beating South Korea 1-0 in the semi-finals on Tuesday. (Jun 27)

Hand-wringing over July 1 holiday
SEOUL - The South Korean business community is raising concerns about the one-time-only holiday planned for this Monday, worrying that it might deflate World Cup enthusiasm.

The government designated July 1 as a one-time holiday to celebrate the Korean national soccer team's outstanding job in the World Cup finals. This move, however, might make people less eager to return to work, Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) chairman Sohn Byung-doo opined.

"Given the current unfavorable economic conditions, such as poor industrial production and the weak dollar, the urgent matter is to foster a working fever, taking advantage of economic effects made during the World Cup period," he said. Sohn also stressed that the national harmony the public has shown in the soccer event should lead to unity between labor and management, calling for active post-World cup measures to sustain economic gains.

Kim Young-bae, senior executive of the Korea Employers Federation, also said, "The government should focus on how to utilize the current World Cup zeal to boost competitiveness, rather than holding such ephemeral events." (Jun 26)

Seoul bourses to close Monday
SEOUL - South Korea's main and secondary stock markets will close on Monday to observe the one-time national holiday that the government has designated to honor the successful hosting of the World Cup and the national team's unprecedented victories. The foreign exchange market will also close Monday, and the bond repurchase agreement trading scheduled for July 1 will take place the following day. (Jun 26)

Korean investors expect post-Cup stock gains
SEOUL - South Korean investors expect stock prices to perk up after the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Daewoo Securities said on Wednesday. According to a recent forecast survey on stock prices after the World Cup through the brokerage's homepage, 68 percent of the 1,477 respondents said stock prices will surge after the international sports event. Twenty-one percent, or 320 people, said stock prices are unlikely to rise, while 10 percent said they could not predict how stock prices will change. (Jun 26)

Korean banks' Cup promos pay off
SEOUL - South Korean banks are pleased with the better-than-expected marketing effects acquired during World Cup, as small outlays of money and time have brought them public relations bonanzas. Industry analysts said banks have secured advertising effects far greater than what could have been gained by TV commercials costing several hundred million won, while it cost a fraction of that to provide beverages, food and face painting to the Red Devils cheerleading squad.

Hana Bank and Korea First Bank have spent 50 million won (US$38,900) and 30 million won, respectively, to offer pedestrians drinks and food in front of their headquarters on days when Korea played a match. Many grateful customers have left messages on the bank's homepages thanking them for their efforts.

Woori Bank, Shinhan Bank and Seoul Bank have upgraded their images by conducting similar marketing campaigns. In particular, Seoul Bank has staged an exhibition involving historical soccer data in the lobby of its headquarters, which 700-800 people visit each day.

Kookmin Bank distributed Korean rice cakes to mark the national team's entry into the semi-finals, while Chohung Bank has obtained marketing effects worth several billion won by decking its staff out in the national team's uniforms. (Jun 26)

Soccer goods hot items in Korea
SEOUL - With World Cup fever rising to new heights across South Korea, sales of sports goods such as as soccer shoes, balls and uniforms show no signs of abating.

Shinsegae's discount store E-mart is selling on average 300 pairs of soccer shoes during weekdays and 600 on the weekends, tripling pre-World Cup figures. The 2002 Cup's official ball, Fevernova, already sold out early this month and general soccer balls priced at 20,000-30,000 won (US$16-$24) are selling like hotcakes. In addition, the number of people who play soccer is on the rise, sales of products such as soccer stockings, leg guards, sports socks and gloves for goal keepers grew six to seven times compared with the months before the world sports event, according to E-mart.

Samsung Tesco's Home Plus also saw soccer uniforms selling a staggering 700-800 pieces a day. Last month, only 10 left the shelves per day, but whenever the Korean team plays in the Cup, some 1,000 sets find owners. (Jun 25)

Seoul mulls aid to maintain stadiums
SEOUL - The South Korean government will consider offering financial aid to provincial governments to help them maintain World Cup soccer stadiums.

"We are examining the reports on operation of the 10 World Cup stadiums after the end of the World Cup events which were presented by relevant provincial governments," an official of the Ministry of Finance and Economy said Sunday.

The official said the ministry will closely discuss with the provincial governments ways to effectively manage the stadiums, which cost 1.6 trillion won (US$1.2 billion), before coming up with an aid program. The government will focus on how to create abusiness model to produce enough profits to pay the maintenance cost which will reach 3 billion won per stadium, the official said.

The business community has yet to respond positively to the proposal by the government to take over some of the stadiums to launch new professional soccer clubs. (Jun 24)

Industry boss touts 'Hiddink leadership'
SEOUL - The vice chairman of the Federation of Korean Industries suggested on Friday that South Korean companies carry out management reforms based on "Hiddink leadership" to raise productivity and competitiveness.

Sohn Byung-doo told a breakfast meeting hosted by Minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy Shin Kook-hwan for leaders of the country's five economic organizations that he is planning to invite the Korean soccer team's Dutch coach, Guus Hiddink, to speak about his leadership method. (Jun 21)

Home shopping wins big sales
SEOUL - South Korean TV home-shopping companies have scored hits with progressive World Cup marketing slogans such as "Our First World Cup Victory", "The Second Round" and "The Quarter Finals". Home-shopping firms were initially worried revenue could fall sharply during the soccer championship. However, dips on the days of South Korean matches have generally been followed by three days of soaring sales.

CJ39 Home Shopping's sales for the three days following the June 4 match when South Korea beat Poland 2-0 rose 22.5 percent daily. As Korea advanced to the second round by beating Portugal 1-0 on June 14, its daily sales also soared 9.1 percent. On last Friday's Korea-Portugal game, Hyundai Home shopping won orders worth 1.9 billion won (US$1.54 million), and daily sales over the following three days posted 2.6 billion won. On Monday alone, the sales figure skyrocketed a whopping 44.7 percent from Friday to 2.75 billion won.

"June is usually a low-demand season, but TV home shopping firms have been quick to capitalize on World Cup marketing to raise sales. With World Cup fever boiling across the nation, many consumers tend to buy products on impulse," a TV home-shopping official said. (Jun 20)

KAL gives coach four years of first-class flights
SEOUL - Korean Air (KAL) has presented Guus Hiddink, head coach of the South Korean World Cup soccer team, the right to fly first class on any of its international flights free of charge for four years in recognition of his success in bringing the team to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.

The air carrier has also decided to give four two-way tickets in its business class to each of the 23 players and three coaching staff so that they can take their family members on vacation. The airline said a two-way ticket from Incheon to New York would cost 5 five million won (US$4,055) and the tickets will be delivered to them as soon as the global soccer extravaganza is over. (Jun 19)

Korean team scores free life insurance
SEOUL - Kyobo Life Insurance Co has announced plans to offer the South Korean national soccer team free "Kyobo Lifelong Insurance" worth 9.1 billion won (US$7.38 million) after the players beat Italy to ensure a place in the World Cup quarter-finals. In South Korea's 48-year World Cup history, it had not won a single match in previous championships.

Kyobo will provide South Korea's coach Guus Hiddink with 1 billion won worth of coverage, and four coaching staff and 23 players will each get insurance worth 300 million won. (Jun 19)

World Cup marketing boosts mobile phone sales
SEOUL - South Korea's mobile carriers are signing up more subscribers thanks to active marketing during the World Cup.

The market leader SK Telecom (KSE:17670) added 156,000 new subscribers in the month to last Saturday, while 60,000 users canceled subscriptions, bringing its total number of subscribers to 16.39 million. KTF, the nation's No 2 mobile-phone operator, reached 10.05 million subscribers by adding 38,000 more users during the month to last Thursday.

These two companies also had 245,000 and 86,000 more members, respectively, last month when they launched a full-scale marketing drive, targeting the World Cup finals. They are offering billions of won worth of prizes for every goal the South Korean national soccer team scores in the championship and are also arranging street cheering campaigns.

LG Telecom's total number of subscribers rose 1,000 to 4.26 million for the month ending last Sunday after a two-month fall in subscription numbers. (Jun 18)

Korean patent office rejects 'Red Devil' trademark bids
SEOUL - South Korea's Office of Patents has rejected a slew of applications to register as a trademark "Red Devil", a popular Korean cheer slogan for the World Cup. The patent applications numbered 123, including "Red Devil soju", "Red Devil ice cream" and "Red Devil student uniform".

Patent officials said "Red Devil" cannot be registered as a trademark for the sake of profit because it is a title of a public nature approved by the people. (Jun 17)

Foreign CEOs invited to Seoul semi-final
SEOUL - The South Korean Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy (MOCIE), jointly with foreign chambers of commerce in Korea, will offer 30 foreign chief executive officers a chance to watch a World Cup semi-final match on June 25 in Seoul.

"The ministry invited 50 foreign business leaders at the end of May. They watched the opening match of the World Cup between France and Senegal May 31. This time, the subjects are CEOs of multinational companies both in Korea and Asian countries," said the MOCIE. Some who failed to visit Korea in May are expected to visit this time. (Jun 17)

Electricity demand plunges during Korea matches
SEOUL - Domestic electricity demand during South Korea's soccer match against Poland on June 4 and against the United States on Monday fell 2.3 million kilowatts (5.7 percent) and 5.6 million kilowatts (13.9 percent) respectively, the Korea Power Exchange said on Friday.

The sharp drop in electricity use was caused by the fact that electricity demand from TVs rose a mere 270,000kw while demand from plants and offices fell a staggering 2.4 million and 3.5 million kilowatts respectively. In fact, on days with Korean matches, many companies and schools closed their doors around noon. There was little change in electricity consumption while games between foreign teams were going on. (Jun 14)

World Cup expected to boost Japan's GDP
TOKYO - The economic benefits from the World Cup soccer tournament will reach about 450 billion to 460 billion yen (US$3.6 billion to $3.68 billion), Sumitomo-Life Research Institute said on Thursday. The think-tank expects the economic benefits to push up Japan's nominal gross domestic product (GDP) in the current fiscal year by 0.1 percentage point.

Expenses for accommodations and transportation paid by foreign visitors to Japan to watch the tournament are expected to approach 73 billion yen. The institute also estimates that spending by Japanese spectators and others will total some 155 billion yen, of which about 25.5 billion yen will be spent on replacing televisions and videocassette recorders. Direct spending, including costs for holding the tournament, is expected to increase some 288 billion yen, with overall economic benefits, including the secondary effects, estimated to total up to about 460 billion yen.

Dai-ichi Life Research Institute Inc earlier estimated that the economic benefits from the tournament would total some 370 billion yen. (Jun 14)

More suspicion about Moscow riots
MOSCOW - Russian officials continue to express doubts that the riots in Moscow after the national soccer team lost its World Cup match with Japan on Sunday were spontaneous. Izvestiya on Tuesday printed comments by a police officer who was on the scene during the rioting, in which he wondered where rioters procured the sledge hammers and gasoline that they used to vandalize cars and storefronts. "Who brings a sledge hammer to watch a soccer match?" the unnamed officer said.

Russian national soccer team coach Oleg Romantsev said on Wednesday that "someone is apparently trying to link the ugly incident to soccer", but "it was prepared [by people] who used the game with Japan as a pretext". And Vasilii Shandybin, a Communist deputy in the State Duma, said on Tuesday that he believes the riot was a "specially planned action, timed to coincide with the Duma's discussion of the law on political extremism ... It was a premeditated action following the adoption of the presidential law on the prevention of extremism in order to ban all patriotic parties and movements." (Jun 14)

Osaka University unveils robot soccer player
TOKYO - While their human counterparts battle for the World Cup, robots are gearing up for the 2002 RoboCup robot soccer tournament in Fukuoka and Busan, which kicks off next Wednesday.

A member of the Osaka University robot soccer team was unveiled on Wednesday in Tokyo. The robot, which measures 48 cenitmeters in height, demonstrated its ability to kick a ball and respond to cheers.

The first RoboCup was held in 1997, but this is the first year that humanoid robots will take the field. Teams from countries including Japan, Sweden and Australia will participate. The robots compete in their ability to score goals and the speed at which they move. They also compete in a free demonstration. (Jun 13)

Internet lottery scores big on Kosdaq
SEOUL - Shares of Lototo, an Internet lottery company, recorded Kosdaq's highest gains around the opening of the 2002 World Cup, the Kosdaq Stock Market Inc said on Thursday. According to a market analysis by the Kosdaq Stock Market from May 24-June 11, Lototo shares jumped 52.6 percent. (Jun 13)

Miniatures of Korea's coach sell like hotcakes
SEOUL - South Korea's World Cup team coach Guss Hiddink's miniatures are all the rage on the Interpark website, selling 1,000 units this month, online shopping mall Interpark says. The sales indicate that Hiddink has become the most beloved figure in South Korea thanks to his strenuous efforts to lead the national team to the second round of the World Cup finals.

Another popular miniature is Ahn Jung-hwan. His equalizer in the 78th minute against the United States on Monday kept South Korea from losing a chance to go into the second round. For the 10 days prior to the June 10 game, 650 miniature Ahns sold, but on June 11, 300 were ordered on the Interpark website. Hwang Sun-hong, who scored the second goal against Poland on June 4 and helped South Korea secure its first World Cup win, took third place in the sales figures. (Jun 12)

Japanese shun travel, stay home to watch Cup
TOKYO - The number of Japanese taking overseas package tours has dropped more than 10 percent year on year in June as young people have apparently decided to stay in Japan to watch the World Cup rather than travel abroad. The downturn follows the higher earnings achieved in April and May, which almost convinced the Japanese travel industry that the prolonged slump since the September terrorist attacks in the United States had ended.

The slump is concentrated in areas favored by young tourists, such as Southeast Asia, the United States and parts of Hawaii, with tours for older people and honeymoon couples generally unaffected, the travel agencies said. The bearish business is partly due to the industry's decision to limit the number of tours offered during the World Cup, including halting all tours to South Korea, which is co-hosting the event.

Some in the industry now worry that the weak demand may continue for some time, as people will not start planning their summer vacations until early July, after the World Cup ends. (Jun 11)

Russian observers say riots orchestrated
MOSCOW - The massive street rioting that broke out in downtown Moscow after Russia's 1-0 loss to Japan in the World Cup soccer championships on Sunday was an orchestrated action, say many observers, including some leading Russian politicians and pro-Kremlin commentators.

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov called the riots "a well-planned escapade", and Aleksandr Oslon, head of the Public Opinion Foundation, said the disturbances "must have been prepared by somebody". A pro-Kremlin website speculated that journalists on the scene may have been "intentionally assaulted".

Anchor Yevgenii Krivenko said on state-run RTR's evening newscast that the violence underscores the need to adopt quickly a controversial government-sponsored bill on extremism that passed its first reading in the State Duma on Thursday. The incident is reminiscent of a case in 1999 when crowds of soccer fans rampaged near the US Embassy in Moscow during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's military action against Yugoslavia. (Jun 11)

Korean team's advance could generate US$14bn
SEOUL - The economic effect expected from South Korea's advance to the second round of the World Cup finals will exceed 18 trillion won (US$14 billion), including 3 trillion won in direct effect, Hyundai Economic Research Institute said on Monday.

According to the Hyundai report, if South Korea finishes at the top of Group D and moves on, it will roughly double per capita spending within the days immediately following the feat, will help elevate the country's national image and will result in a public relations effect equivalent to 3.2 trillion won. Assuming that about US$100 million is required to help improve corporate image by 1 percent, the advance will help improve South Korea's corporate image by 1 percent and raise brand awareness of World Cup sponsors by about 3 percent, resulting in indirect effects equivalent to $12 billion, according to the report. (Jun 10)

Fewer tourists visiting Korea since World Cup kickoff
SEOUL - South Korea has lost popularity with foreign tourists, particularly Chinese and Japanese neighbors, though it is in its 10th day of co-hosting the World Cup finals. From May 20 to June 2, an average 29,973 tourists a day traveled to or through South Korea by plane and ship, up a meager 1.4 percent from the average 29,560 who came daily during the prior two-week period, according to the Korea Customs Service.

World Cup co-hosts the Japanese prefer to visit South Korea more than any other foreign destination, but their numbers fell 19.3 percent to 7,572 on an average daily basis when comparing the two weeks before and after May 20. Fewer Chinese came as well: the average daily number of Chinese tourists has dropped 1.1 percent to 4,850 since May 20, 11 days before the sporting event kicked off. (Jun 10)

Soccer fans boost digital TV sales
SEOUL - The sale of digital TV sets in South Korea went up sharply ahead of the World Cup soccer finals. The Electronic Industry Association of Korea (EIAK) said on Saturday that the sale of digital TV sets totaled 75,000 sets in May, up 60 percent from 47,000 sets sold in the preceding month.

The sale of the digital TVs totaled 39,900 sets in January, 43,300 in February, and 57,300 in March. The number of digital TV sets around the country thus far totaled 769,000, the EIAK estimates, up 63.6 percent from about 470,000 sets at the end of last year. (Jun 10)

Travel agencies suffer World Cup woes
SEOUL - South Korea's travel bureaus are struggling with fewer than expected tourists from neighboring China and Japan though the World Cup finals are going on here. Still worse, the number of Koreans planning to go abroad is on the decline as many are putting off overseas trips so as not to miss the soccer matches.

One travel agency initially projected it could attract about 5,500 Chinese to visit South Korea by June 13, the date of China's last match, but only 2,800 Chinese had booked trips as of Tuesday. "We can hardly find any special demand in tourism during the World Cup. In particular, the Chinese complain it takes too long to get a visa for Korea due to political uncertainties in China caused by the crackdown on the Falungong sect," a travel source said.

Prospects also look dim for travel companies arranging in-bound trips for Japanese. They have stopped offering World Cup package tours, since the co-hosts prefer to enjoy the games in their own country. Another travel agency said it first thought it could arrange Korea visits for 4,500 Japanese but only a third of them have made reservations. "In fact, all efforts to attract Japanese tourists bore no fruit since last month and most travel agencies are just waiting for the soccer competition to be over," another tourism source said. (Jun 5)

Korean hotel reservations disappoint
SEOUL - Other than at World Cup VIP hotels, reservations at major South Korean hotels fell 10 percentage points to 75-80 percent occupancy in June from a year earlier.

Hotels expected to be fully booked after foreign tourists began arriving after the May 31 kickoff of the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Seoul. But just as organizers were shocked by the number of empty seats at the opening ceremony, hotel managers are wondering where the guests are. Reservations for hotel rooms during the remainder of the World Cup period are off 15 percentage points from the same month last year.

Lotte Hotel, which boasts 1,486 rooms, reported a 70 percent booking rate, 15 percentage points lower on year. During the one-month period when the soccer finals run, the rate will be around 75-80 percent, according to the hotel. Other hotels report similar rates. Average hotel-room charges, however, rose this year, so total revenues are almost flat with last year's.

One hotel source believes the low reservation rates are because business people have delayed visits to South Korea in order to avoid the World Cup crowds. Hotels designated for World Cup VIPs and FIFA staff, the Shilla and Hyatt, have more than a 90 percent booking rate. (Jun 4)

Digital satellite TV trial launched in Korea
SEOUL - With South Korean terrestrial broadcasters relaying high-definition TV soccer matches during the World Cup finals, digital TV broadcasting using satellite links was launched on a trial basis on Saturday. Korea Digital Satellite Broadcasting (KDB)'s multi-channel broadcasting service, SkyLife, and the HD set-top box manufacturer Asia Pacific Space Telecom Co (APST) began the pilot digital satellite broadcasting services in about 20 places nationwide, including major department stores and terminals.

The Information and Communication Ministry says full-fledged digital satellite broadcasting could start by the end of this year. While digital terrestrial networks are limited to large cities such as Seoul, Daejeon, and Gwangju, digital satellites can broadcast programs throughout South Korea, contributing to narrowing the information gap among cities, the ministry said. (Jun 4)

Russians largely indifferent to championship
MOSCOW - Just 8 percent of Russians believe their country's team will win the World Cup, according to a VTsIOM poll. Nineteen percent of respondents said they planned to follow the tournament very closely, while 41 percent said they would not pay the soccer finals any attention. (Jun 4)

Industry heavily into World Cup publicity
SEOUL - A number of Korean heavy industrial firms are either holding product displays or participating in similar events staged by others in an effort to publicize their products during the World Cup soccer finals, which kicked off on Friday and will continue in South Korea and Japan until June 30.

Daewoo Heavy Industrial Machinery is slated to hold the "Daewoo International Machine Fair (DIMF) 2002" at its Changwon plant from Monday to Wednesday next week for some 260 local and foreign guests as part of its World Cup marketing activity. The invited guests will be taken to World Cup matches as well as popular tourist sites around South Korea. The company also plans to display forklifts in the First Daewoo International Forklift Show 2002 from June 12-14 at its Incheon plant, where some 230 dealers and customers will be invited to attend.

Korean shipbuilding firms will attend a shipbuilding exposition in Posedonia, Greece, from Tuesday to Friday in an effort to win orders and publicize the World Cup. (May 31)

Australia wins Mini Soccer Tournament
SEOUL - Australia was the victor in the finals of an International Mini Soccer Tournament held in the South Korean capital on the eve of the World Cup.

The Australian team beat the US squad, and the Russian and South American teams ranked third and fourth, respectively. The tournament, sponsored by foreign units of Hyundai Motor Co, involved 11 amateur soccer teams from South Korea, Japan, China and several European and American nations.

The soccer competition has gone through regional and national qualifying tournaments since October, with about 40,000 players from some 50 countries participating.

The South Korean car maker plans to arrange trips for all the players to such places as its Ulsan plant and Korean cultural relics. They will also have a chance to watch World Cup soccer matches, which will kick off on Friday. (May 30)

Home shopping targets soccer-bored women
SEOUL - TV home shopping companies have launched "niche marketing" targeting women during the World Cup finals that begin on Friday.

Hyundai Home Shopping is planning to show more products for housewives who may have little interest in soccer during the World Cup. "During Group D matches - Korea, the United States, Portugal and Poland - or when strong teams play, women's products will prevail on the channel. On June 4 when Korea faces Poland, a surprise event for women is being planned," says Hyundai Home Shopping.

LG Home Shopping intensively broadcast products for women such as diet foods, lingerie and kitchen utensils during South Korea's recent friendly games, and the result was an increase of 5-10 percent in sales. Therefore, the company will push ahead with the marketing strategy.

"Unlike men going crazy at soccer games, women may feel isolated in the heat of the sports competition. The home shopping channels are whispering in women's ears that they are not alone, in the hope that they buy their products," a marketing source said. (May 29)

Seoul business forums aim for World Cup benefits
SEOUL - A series of investment forums and exhibitions will be held in Seoul ahead of and during the World Cup finals in an attempt to turn the global attention being paid to South Korea into economic benefits.

The Korea Foreign Company Association held an investment forum on Wednesday to publicize South Korea's business environment and to collect feedback from foreign businessmen. Some 600 foreign business leaders attended the 2002 Seoul Investment Forum, and Prime Minister Lee Han-dong delivered a welcoming speech at the forum.

The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy will also hold a round-table forum Thursday with some 40 business dignitaries. The ministry plans to draw on forum discussions when devising export and investment attraction strategies. (May 29)

Japanese royals to visit Korea for World Cup
SEOUL - Japan's Prince Takamado and Princess Hisako are to arrive in South Korea on Wednesday for a six-day visit to attend the start of the World Cup finals. The visit, made at the request of the Seoul government, will be the first official visit by members of the Japanese imperial family to South Korea since World War II.

The prince, who is a cousin of Emperor Akihito and an honorary president of the Japanese Football Association, will attend the opening ceremony and early games in Ulsan and Busan before leaving on Monday.

Prince Takamado will also make a courtesy call to President Kim Dae-jung on Thursday. Upon arrival, he will visit the National Cemetery in Seoul to offer flowers and burn incense to pay respects to deceased Korean soldiers before attending a dinner party hosted by Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Choi Sung-hong. (May 28)

Investor relations session offered in Seoul
SEOUL - The Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) will hold an investor relations (IR) session in the Seoul Trade and Exhibition Center (SETEC) in southern Seoul during the World Cup tournament. The IR session is designed to give information about Korean investment environments to foreign businessmen visiting during the global sporting event from May 31 to June 30.

Business discussions about Incheon International Airport and the Korea Industrial Complex Corp in the SETEC are designed to attract overseas investments, and 11 local governments will join the effort. (May 28)

Tokyo, Seoul to co-host fashion shows
SEOUL - The co-hosts of the 2002 World Cup, South Korea and Japan, are busy expanding their partnership to cover gala fashion festivals as well. Seeing the global soccer extravaganza as a venue to promote domestic industries, Korean and Japanese fashion businesses tailored two joint fashion shows, one to be held in Seoul's Jangchung Gymnasium this Saturday and the other in Tokyo's Makuhari Messe on June 22.

With features reminiscent of Yves Saint Laurent's glamorous solo show at the opening ceremony for the 1998 France World Cup, the 3,000 young Koreans and Japanese invited to the show will be bombarded with music, dancing and photos.

The South Korean event is marketing itself as a "fusion of fashion and culture, cultural exchanges and harmony among the youth from Korea and Japan" and will turn the stage over to the works of Won Jie-hae and Ayumi Yamada and four other emerging designers, for a total of three each from South Korea and Japan. Also five national brands from the two countries will show their works at the fair.

Young people from both countries can catch concerts, dance parties and photo exhibitions in Tokyo. (May 24)

Korean hotels tighten security
SEOUL - Five-star hotels in South Korea are intensifying their security ahead of the opening ceremony of the World Cup finals on May 31. The Seoul Hilton Hotel, the Shilla and others catering to foreign VIPs during the May 31-June 30 soccer tournament have increased undercover security patrols and are strengthening searches of their guests.

The Hilton, which will be the temporary home of the World Cup referees, has tightened security the most. It has stationed plainclothes police on every floor and made all employees and guests wear identity stickers.

The Grand Hyatt Seoul has also dispatched police from the sixth to eighth floors where the headquarters of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), soccer's world governing body, is set up, and plans to install security screening devices at the entry gate for body checks and bag searches.

The Shilla Hotel will also place security experts on its 16 floors and the lobby. (May 23)

Six countries in fireworks extravaganza
SEOUL - A month-long weekly fireworks festival will kick off on Saturday to boost the festive mood during the World Cup soccer finals. Organizer Hanwha Corp, known for gunpowder and explosives production, said the fireworks will be held at the Hangang Riverside Park in Seoul's Yeouido for one hour from 8:30pm every Saturday through June 22. Admission is free.

Fireworks teams from six countries - South Korea, the United States, Australia, Japan, China and Italy - will showcase a variety of fireworks during the Second International Fireworks Festival, Hanwha said. A total of about 55,000 shots will be fired during the five rounds of event, officials said, adding that the festival will also feature performances by pop singers and other events. (May 22)

Star Cruise to resume China-Korea route May 30
SEOUL - A cruise ship will resume operations between South Korea and China beginning May 30, one day before the start of the World Cup finals. The cruise ship stopped its service in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Star Cruise of Malaysia will put a 19,000-ton liner into service on the routes between the Pyeongtaek port of South Korea and China's Qingdao and Dalian ports. The route from Pyeongtaek-Qingdao runs once a week and Pyeongtaek-Dalian operates twice a week. A one-way ticket is priced at between 150,000 and 370,000 won (US$120-295).

The vessel, which has 400 passenger cabins and other facilities such as a restaurant, theater and swimming pool, has a capacity of 900 passengers. Star Cruise's South Korean branch says the service may be extended beyond the World Cup period depending on demand. The South Korean cruise business was thought highly profitable when it was first launched in 2000 but the number of tourists dropped sharply shortly after the terrorist attacks. (May 22)

Korea to provide tax guides, breaks
SEOUL - South Korea's National Tax Service (NTS) has decided to post tax service guides at airports, hotels and other World Cup-related outlets to explain tax rules to foreigners as well as provide support to domestic firms participating in the world soccer event.

Tax service guides will be posted at 40 locations around the country in an effort to provide services to World Cup-related personnel, including officials of the Federation Internationale de Football Association, foreign soccer players and foreign tourists. The tax service guides will be available at Incheon, Jeju and Gimhae airports, two shipping terminals in Busan and Incheon and about 30 hotels. Guides will also be available at Itaewon and four other major tourist locations until June 30.

The NTS has also decided to exempt taxes on income earned by foreign referees, game personnel, foreign employees of FIFA and foreign football associations. The NTS said wages paid by FIFA, air travel and lodging expenses will not be subject to domestic taxes. The NTS has also decided to exempt the value-added taxes on admission tickets to World Cup matches issued and sold by the Korea World Cup Organizing Committee (KOWOC). Goods sold at tourist souvenir outlets, duty free shops and bonded area sales outlets will also be exempt from paying value-added taxes.

The NTS estimated that about 4,206 firms participating in the global event, including eight official sponsors, would be able to save some 40 billion won (about US$32 million) in tax favors. The NTS, in the meantime, projects it will collect some 5.3 billion won from taxes on cash awards provided to World Cup teams. (May 21)

BOK opens new service for World Cup tourists
SEOUL - The Bank of Korea (BOK) has announced the opening of a "Foreigners Only" window to help tourists purchase, sell or remit foreign currency during the World Cup soccer finals.

The South Korean central bank will operate the new service window in its headquarters in downtown Seoul until July 6. Foreigners who visit the BOK's provincial branches will also be allowed access to the window, which will be serviced by bank officials who can speak English, Chinese, Japanese, German and French. (May 20)

Incheon hotels woo visitors
INCHEON, South Korea - Major hotels in and around this port city are busy trying to attract more visitors in the run-up to the World Cup.

The Olympus Hotel, the only hotel in Incheon to accommodate the national soccer teams, including South Korea and France, is preparing events including a welcoming ceremony for the soccer players. The hotel asked the Incheon cargo-handling association to refrain from unloading iron scraps at night in the port from June 7-14 to avoid bothering the athletes' sleep. Three games will be held at the Incheon Munhak Stadium during the period, including a South Korea-Portugal match on June 14.

The Incheon Sondo Beach Hotel has earmarked half of its 203 rooms for FIFA staff and has started foreign-language services in English and Chinese on its website. The Royal Hotel, focusing on media support, has secured reservations from the Associated Press and other journalists. It has installed wired and wireless high-speed Internet in each room and will lend the media teams notebook computers and other equipment. (May 20)

World Cup bookings drive car rentals higher
SEOUL - South Korea's car-rental companies are enjoying a boom in demand just ahead of the World Cup finals. With surging demand from companies and groups related to the soccer event, major car-rental companies, including Avis Rent A Car Korea and Korea Express Co, have booked reservations for nearly their entire fleets through June, company sources say.

Korea Express said that though it has secured 4,000 cars for this year, it is very difficult to meet demand, with its daily booking rates for the World Cup period already exceeding 85 percent since early this month, compared with 40 percent on normal days. All the mid-sized and large cars with engines over 1,800cc have already been booked, and the 10-20 remaining compact cars are likely to be rented by next week, the company said.

Kumho Rent A Car said that of its 7,000 cars, 3,000 have been reserved. Rising demand by media and security companies has helped boost booking rates by 50-80 percent over the same period last year. The company expects that its monthly sales revenue will grow to 9 billion won (US$5.5 million) from a usual 7 billion won during the May 31-June 30 soccer tournament.

Avis, equipped with an international reservation network, booked reservations for all of its 6,000 cars last month and has ordered an additional 500 cars from manufacturers to meet new demand. (May 17)

High-speed undersea Japan-Korea link opens
SEOUL - A deep-sea high-speed communication network has opened ahead of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. KT Corp (formerly Korea Telecom) held an opening ceremony in Busan on Thursday for the Korea-Japan Cable Network (KJCN) that links Busan, Fukuoka and Kitakyushu.

The South Korean telecom carrier said the cable network will play a core role in relaying World Cup matches as it will make direct multimedia communications between the two nations possible. Three Japanese companies - NTT Com, Japan Telecom and Kyushu Electric Power Co - worked with KT on the project. The four firms began construction last May, and the project cost US$60 million.

The network stretches over 250 kilometers along the shortest distance between Korea and Japan under the same sea route plied by traders during Korea's Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

Cutting-edge technologies such as Dense Wavelength Division Multiplex (DWDM) were applied to the network. The KJCN network has a data-processing capability of 2.88 terabits per second (Tbps), enough to convey all the data on 4,500 CD-ROMs in one second and on par with 2.88 million people sending 1 megabit of data simultaneously via ultra-speed Internet connections. A KT source said completion of the undersea cable network will facilitate IT exchange between the two sides in the coming years. (May 16)

Daejeon expands tourism info services
SEOUL - The South Korean city of Daejeon has announced plans to expand tourism information services from Friday to the end of next month, to prepare for a rush of foreign tourists ahead of this summer's World Cup finals.

Under the plan, the metropolitan government will increase the number of tourism information centers to six from the current three, and each center will provide related information in English, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, Thai and other languages. The city also plans to set up a temporary information center in major tourist attractions including the Expo Science Park, Central Science Museum and Daeduck Research Complex.

To minimize foreign tourists' inconvenience, it will distribute 10 tour guide books and maps to information centers and accommodations around the city and disperse 200 interpreters to city offices and other places near lodging facilities. (May 16)

World Cup boosts demand for PDP TVs
SEOUL - South Korean electronics makers are enjoying a special boom in demand for plasma display panels, or PDP TVs, ahead of the World Cup finals.

LG Electronics, Korea's second-biggest electronics maker, estimated this week that it has already sold between 6,300 and 6,400 PDP TVs this year, surpassing 4,000 units sold in all of last year. An LG official said there are special demands for PDP TVs among consumers who can't watch World Cup matches in person. LG expects its total sales for this year will exceed 15,000 units if the current trend continues.

Helped by PDP TV popularity, LG's total digital-TV sales reached between 140,000 and 150,000 units through May, close to the 170,000 sold for all of 2001. Among types, sales of high-definition [HD] digital TVs are estimated to have risen 50 percent from the same period a year ago, the company said.

Encouraged by increased domestic demands, Samsung Electronics also raised monthly production at its Suwon plant to 12,000 units from the current 5,000 and plans to expand it to 20,000 by the end of the year. The company will also enhance its presence in the market by releasing new models, including a 50-inch PDP TV, within the year and diversifying digital TV models. (May 16)

Flower-decked floats to mark opening day
SEOUL - The South Korean Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry plans to organize a parade of flower-decked floats on May 31 to celebrate the opening of the 2002 World Cup soccer finals.

The parade will start from Yonsei University in Seoul and proceed to the Mapo Ward office near the Sangam Main World Cup Stadium, the ministry said. The purpose of the event, under the theme of "Floriculture Korea", is to show the world the development of the South Korean floriculture industry and thus promote the export of locally grown flowers.

The parade will include about 10 floats covered with flowers and bearing traditional art troupes from a number of foreign countries comprising some 700 participants. (May 15)

Korea fast-tracks highway repairs for World Cup
SEOUL - South Korea plans to wrap up various highway projects before the start of the World Cup on May 31.

The Ministry of Construction and Transportation said the 2.2-kilometer section of the Seoul Outer Circular Expressway between the Topyeong Interchange and Namyangju Interchange will be widened to eight lanes from four by next Tuesday at a cost of 44 billion won (US$34.4 million). The project began in December 1998. The Guri Toll Gate will expand from 16 to 21 lanes, while Songpa Interchange, Namyangju Interchange and Toegyewon Interchange will be improved by Tuesday.

Improvement work on the North Daegu Interchange will be completed by May 30, about one year and seven months earlier than scheduled.

In the meantime, repairs on the Jeonju Interchange on the Honam Highway and the Seohanam Interchange on the Seoul Outer Circular Expressway were completed on Tuesday and April 30, respectively. (May 15)

Korean firms buy 95,000 tickets
SEOUL - South Korean companies have purchased 95,000 tickets worth an estimated 14 billion won (US$11 million) for the upcoming 2002 FIFA World Cup matches, the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) said on Monday.

The business umbrella organization said the findings were the result of a questionnaire conducted on 35 key companies that include conglomerates with assets in excess of 2 trillion won. The FKI said businesses had also purchased 27 Sky Box seats at a cost between 100 million and 300 million won. The special boxes, which are separated from the regular seats, are expected to be reserved for VIP clients and the companies' top executives.

The number of tickets purchased by South Korean firms account for roughly a fifth of the 474,000 tickets initially allocated for domestic spectators. (May 14)

KEB to operate currency exchanges near Cup venues
SEOUL - The Korea Exchange Bank will provide foreign tourists with currency-exchange services at nine railway stations near World Cup venues. The KEB plans to set up money-exchange counters at stations including Seoul, Daejeon and Busan.

It also plans to distribute a booklet on how to detect counterfeit bills to department stores and accommodation facilities. South Korea and Japan will co-host the finals from May 31 to June 30. (May 14)

Korean eateries dig into World Cup promotion
SEOUL - With the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan finals just around the corner, domestic eateries are preparing a variety of events to lead and cash in on the festivities around the soccer tournament.

Family restaurant chain TGI Friday's will introduce a month-long "Korean Team Fighting" promotion from Wednesday together with KT Freetel, a mobile-phone service provider and official World Cup partner. Some lucky diners from among those paying with a KTF Card will be given gifts such as color cell phones and soccer balls during the event. Should the South Korean soccer squad successfully enter the top 16, all TGI Friday's restaurants will provide 16 dining certificates to a lucky KTF Card holders on June 16.

The Bennigans' chain, in alliance with Budweiser, a world famous brewery and official partner for the soccer tournament, has been promoting a "Go, Go, Korea" campaign. Some of the customers ordering from the special World Cup menu have been given commemorative coins and replicas of the Korean squad's uniform through the end of May.

McDonald's will distribute World Cup coupon books during the May 31-June 30 World Cup period. Ice cream and pie will be given free to coupon holders, and discounts will be given for some of the dishes, such as a Bulgogi-Burger set.

LG Gangnam Tower's trendy restaurant Uptown Diner has disposable cameras and free dining coupons to award diners ordering from the special menu for World Cup and displaying their special cheering talents during the "FIFA World Cup Festival," which it will open through the end of June by joining hands with another official World Cup partner, Fuji Film Korea. (May 13)

Seoul hotels compete with giveaways
SEOUL - South Korea's major hotels are competing to invite more guests for the World Cup by offering high-priced giveaways.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel will pick the winner of a new Hyundai Tuscani 2,000cc sports car by lot among visitors to its disco club, Nyx & Nox, during the World Cup soccer tournament (May 31-June 30). The automobile is the single highest-priced hotel giveaway, with a factory price of 14.29 million won (about US$11,100).

The Amiga Hotel will give out 50 million won worth of prizes to some lucky customers who spend more than 100,000 won at the hotel. The gifts include a Panasonic 50-inch PDP TV worth 12 million won, a travel ticket for four nights and five days in Hawaii and a 1 million won gift certificate. (May 13)

The Westin Chosun Hotel and Royal Hotel have also prepared free tickets worth 1 million to 2 million won to Europe, Southeast Asia and Jeju Island.

Korea's major hotels invite famous chefs
SEOUL - South Korea's major hotels are inviting world-famous cooks from China, Japan and Italy to present special dishes as part of their World Cup marketing programs. Such hotels as Seoul Plaza and Sofitel Ambassador have called in renowned chefs from their international partner hotels. Customers can taste various foreign cuisine in and around the soccer tournament, which begins May 31.

Since April 22, Seoul Plaza Hotel has been hosting a "Hangzhou Food Festival" at its Chinese restaurant, Tao Yuen. During the event, which wraps up on May 18, two veteran chefs from the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Hangzhou, China, are showcasing their special fish dishes and drinks.

Sofitel Ambassador Hotel opened a "Thai Food Festival" at its buffet restaurant, Kings, on Thursday. Two experts from Novotel Siam Square in Thailand are here to present popular Thai chicken and fish dishes. Novotel Ambassador Hotel will also hold the festival this month. Other hotels such as Westin Chosun, Holiday Inn and Lotte either held or will hold a world food festival to attract more customers. (May 10)

KT shows off world's biggest building wrap
SEOUL - KT, South Korea's largest telecommunications company and an official World Cup partner, has unveiled the world's largest building wrap on the World Trade Center Korea Building in southern Seoul to promote this year's World Cup finals.

The 32-story wrap on the building, which has a height of 130 meters and a width of 52 meters, is made of 1,600 sheets of special film attached on the windows from the 12th floor through the 43rd floor. The six truckloads of film, with an image of the World Cup inscribed in them, are 1,600 meters long.

A KT official said the building wrap is bigger than the 98-by-41-meter one that US sports-apparel maker Nike set up in the Dutch city of Rotterdam in 2000. People inside the building are able to look out of the windows because the specially engineered wrap was made to be transparent from inside. (May 9)

Korea to prevent hotel rate gouging
SEOUL - The South Korean Ministry of Finance and Economy will survey charges at hotels, inns and other lodging facilities on May 27 to prevent price gouging ahead of the World Cup soccer finals.

The ministry will conduct the three-day survey of lodging facilities designated "World Inns" in the 10 World Cup host cities and the east coast resort town of Gangneung jointly with the Association of Consumer Protection Organizations. The ministry will also check whether the World Inns have signboards for foreigners, telephones available for interpretation, Internet and fax machines.

The government has offered 8 billion won (US$6.2 million) in low-interest loans to World Inns to promote renovations. (May 9)

KAL offers special Korea-Japan charters
SEOUL - Special chartered flights between Seoul's Gimpo and Tokyo's Haneda airports will be in service during the World Cup finals, Korean Air says.

The South Korean flag carrier said that flights will leave Gimpo every day at 7pm and will return to Seoul at 10am the day after. The special chartered service will begin on May 30 with aircraft capable of accommodating about 150 passengers expected to be deployed on the route.

KAL said the seats will be economy class since the planes will act as a shuttle between the capital cities of the two World Cup co-hosts. KAL said an additional flight will leave South Korea at 10am on the opening day of the service.

Officials at KAL said ticket prices for the Gimpo-Haneda route are to be set at 480,000 won (about US$375), which is about 15 percent cheaper than the current Incheon-Narita route. The special flights are also more convenient to passengers planning to travel between Seoul and Tokyo because both airports are located closer to the center of the respective cities than their international counterparts. (May 8)

Seoul steps up air security
SEOUL - With only a few weeks left before the World Cup finals, the South Korean Ministry of Construction and Transportation said it would start stepping up security at airports and on planes.

Under the plan, it has distributed security guidelines to Korean Air and Asiana Airlines, and advised them to minimize offering alcoholic drinks during flights.

It has also installed an additional 6,925 security screening devices in 16 airports nationwide, and plans to expand the number of bomb-detecting inspectors to 33 fromthe current 18 at airports around the country's 10 World Cup hosting cities. The ministry has ordered all employees working at Gimpo Airport to change their entry cards to security areas by May 18, and for security officials to patrol the airport more than three times a day to detect any explosives.

As of the end of last month, the ministry has allowed flight attendants to carry stun guns and pepper spray or similar self-defense devices to deal with disorder on the flight, and finished work to enhance security in the cockpit of planes. (May 8)

Banks export South Korean currency
SEOUL - Three South Korean banks have exported 11.9 billion won (US$9.3 million) worth of Korean currency abroad over the past month to make the funds available to foreign tourists before they enter the country for the upcoming World Cup soccer finals and Asian Games. The Korea Exchange Bank (KEB), Hanvit Bank and Hana Bank exported the South Korean currency to banks in Japan, China and several Southeast Asian nations.

South Korean banks are expected to export a total of 50 billion won in Korean currency before the World Cup and Asian Games under the revision to relevant laws made last November to help support the successful hosting of international sporting events. (May 8)

World Inn interest disappointing
SEOUL - South Korea's World Cup lodging facility "World Inn" has proved less popular than expected among prospective foreign visitors for this summer's World Cup finals, the Korea National Tourism Organization (KNTO) says.

World Inn was set up by local governments to attract World Cup visitors, and it lists moderately priced hotels, inns, private lodging houses, dormitories and training centers nationwide.

As of Tuesday, 8,456 people from 50 countries had reserved 4,946 rooms through the program, a mere 5.9 percent of the 84,000 rooms registered, the KNTO said. By country, Japan showed the most reservation rates with 32.4 percent, or 2,736 people, followed by China with 1,094, the United States with 1,028, Hong Kong with 653, Britain with 546 and France with 230.

Among the types of facilities, motels or inns have grabbed 7,044 guests (83.3 percent), while hotels and private lodging houses have been booked by 997 (11.8 percent) and 252 (3 percent), respectively.

"With booking rates rising since March, we expect about 15,000 will reserve 10,000 rooms by the end of this month," a KNTO official said. (May 7)

Hyundai wheels out vehicles for Cup
SEOUL - Hyundai Motor Co held a ceremony on Tuesday at the Seoul World Cup Stadium to launch its provision of cars and services before and during the soccer event. The official World Cup partner said it will offer 631 passenger cars and 422 vans and buses to help transport players in South Korea and Japan during the May 31-June 30 soccer competition.

It will also station service teams around all the stadiums in South Korea during the soccer matches.

The Korean car maker provided 720 vehicles as an official partner of the 1986 Asian Games and 1988 Seoul Olympics and also supplied 294 cars for the third Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) held in 2000 in Seoul. (May 7)

Foreigners to get consumer protection
SEOUL - The Korea Consumer Protection Board said on Tuesday that it will run a special counseling team for foreign consumers from May 10 through July 10 to deal with the possible increase of cases involving foreigners given the influx of World Cup tourists for the May 31-June 30 event.

During the extended period, the board will accept requests for consumer assistance and damage complaints in four languages: English, Japanese, Chinese and French. (May 7)

Korea Customs' goal is smooth operation
SEOUL - The Korea Customs Service has announced plans to launch an emergency work system from May 20 to ensure smooth operations during this summer's World Cup finals.

Under the system, it will station 259 additional workers at international airports in Incheon, Cheju and Gimhae from May 20 to strengthen checking procedures for foreign visitors. It will also expand the number of inspectors at harbors to 646 and organize 210 emergency teams at its head office and the six main customs services.

The service also plans to operate a comprehensive information center around the clock during the May 31-June 30 soccer event co-hosted by South Korea and Japan.

"We expect the number of overseas travelers visiting Korea per day will increase 50-60 percent to 40,000-50,000 during the World Cup," a customs service official said. "During the period, we will make every effort not only to offer swift and kind customs services but to bar dangerous substances from entering the nation." (May 7)

Chaebol backed Cup bid with millions
SEOUL - South Korean conglomerates provided 19.7 billion won (US$15.3 million) to help the country bid for the 2002 World Cup finals prior to June 1996, when the co-hosting of the finals by South Korea and Japan was decided, the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) said on Friday.

The Korean chaebol lobby group unveiled on its website the list of companies that financially supported the bidding for the World Cup tournament and their detailed contributions.

Samsung, Hyundai and LG group donated 3 billion won each and 14 other conglomerates also extended a helping hand. SK, Daewoo and POSCO contributed 2.4 billion won, followed by Ssangyong with 700 million won, and Hanjin and Lotte with 650 million won, according to the website.

Meanwhile, the FKI recently raised 12 billion won to be used in South Korea's efforts to bid for the 2010 World Expo. (May 3)

Foreign tourist reservations top 100,000
SEOUL - More than 100,000 foreign tourists have made reservations to travel to Korea during the World Cup finals (May 31-June 30), Hodo Tour Co said on Thursday.

A leading member of a consortium created by the South Korean organizing committee for the 2002 World Cup (KOWOC) last year to provide transportation and tours for World Cup spectators, Hodo said it had signed up 103,000 tourist as of late April.

By type of reservation, some 50,000 were part of a package tour, while the remainder will be individual tours. The company, which is part of KOWOC's nine-firm Transportation and Tourism Service Agency (KTTSA), added that it expected this number to increase to 150,000-200,000 by mid-May.

KTTSA is designed to provide a one-stop service connecting soccer games with sightseeing tours and hotel and transportation arrangements.

Chinese, Japanese and European tourists formed the largest contingent of visitors, followed by that of Brazilians and South Africans. (May 2)

Seoul hotels want casino licenses
SEOUL - Four five-star hotels in Seoul have submitted a petition to the South Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism calling for new business licenses allowing them to operate casinos for foreigners only.

The petition filed April 15 by the four hotel firms - the Lotte Hotel, the Grand Hilton Hotel, Hanmoo Convention Co and the Ritz Carlton - said the casino business for foreigners only has been monopolized by one company - Paradise Industry - for the past 34 years. The petition says the government should grant a new license before the World Cup finals in order to introduce a free-market system and attract foreign currencies into the nation's casino industry.

"If the situation doesn't change, we will not rule out filing a petition with the Constitutional Court as well as an administrative lawsuit," the petitioners warned.

Paradise Industry has run South Korea's sole foreigners-only casino at the Walkerhill Hotel since 1968, and reportedly has grabbed nearly 70 percent of the total casino revenues among 13 domestic hotels. (May 2)

South Korea installs foreigner-friendly ATMs
SEOUL - The South Korean Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) says 4,234 automatic teller machines (ATMs) offering exclusive services for foreigners have been installed and 517 more will be added before the May 31 opening of the 2002 World Cup soccer finals.

The foreigner-friendly ATMs are mainly positioned in deluxe hotels and near World Cup venues, airports and subway stations.

The ATMs will offer services in English, Japanese and Chinese so foreigners can easily withdraw money from their overseas bank accounts or get cash advances from their credit cards.

The FSS plans to stock airports and World Cup stadiums with financial guidebooks that list the location of convenient ATMs. (May 2)

Koreans arrange honeymoons away from World Cup month
SEOUL - South Korean travel agencies have been suffering from a decline in demand for honeymoons even though May is the height of the wedding season, tourism industry sources say. The drop seems to be largely due to a concentration of more fortuitous days according to Korean traditions in March and April and the 2002 FIFA World Cup finals slated for the end of May.

Freedom Travel Agency, for instance, arranged honeymoons for 250 couples in May 2001, but that number is down to about 100 newlyweds this year. However, the number of newly married couples booking trips after June grew 20-30 percent from the same month last year.

A Hana Tour Service Inc source said its honeymoon demand in May had grown 20-30 percent annually over the past several years, but demand this year fell flat at about 500 pairs. (Apr 29)

Cup organizer suggests Korea bid for Olympics
SEOUL - Chung Mong-jun, co-chairman of the South Korean organizing committee for the 2002 World Cup (KOWOC), has called for the country's bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, saying hosting a global sport event helps an economy grow and its national image improve.

"If the Korean economy continues to grow by 5 percent annually, the per capita gross domestic product [GDP] is expected to hit US$25,000 by 2020. If so, Korea will be able to host the Summer Olympics in one of the larger cities such as Busan and Daegu," Chung said.

South Korea will be the major beneficiary of the World Cup finals from May 31 to June 30 on the economic side, he added. Seoul hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics. (Apr 29)

Jeju-Shanghai ferry route set up
SEOUL - A South Korean passenger vessel is set to start servicing the route between Jeju and Shanghai, China in May, according to the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (MOMAF).

Musung Shipping Corp, the Korean arm of Apollo Luxury Cruises Co of China, will commission its 7,560-ton-class Columbus Caravelle to ferry travelers and goods between Jeju and Shanghai at two-three day intervals beginning on May 9. The ship is capable of accommodating a crew of 170 and 412 passengers on the 21-hour journey.

An MOMAF source said the service aims to ferry Chinese tourists for the 2002 FIFA World Cup finals in South Korea. If the service is proved commercially viable, the ship is likely to be converted into a liner via discussions with the relevant shipping agency, the source added. (Apr 29)

FKI to invite foreign business leaders for soccer event
SEOUL - Representatives of the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) plan to meet with their counterparts from the United States, Britain and Germany during the World Cup finals to discuss business and watch the soccer finals' matches with them.

FKI's senior officials will have a three-day meeting with US business leaders in Seoul from June 3 and watch the Korea-US match to be held June 5 in Suwon, Gyeonggi province. They have also sketched up a plan to meet with business figures from Britain and Germany in late June and then head to the World Cup Stadium in Seoul to see a semifinal game on June 25. The chaebol lobby has already booked "Sky Box" seats for its VIP visitors. (Apr 29)

(Asia Pulse/Yonhap/Nikkei/Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty)

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