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Purple Island, Ungok Village designated 'Best Tourism Villages'

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Banwol and Bakji Island of Sinan County, South Jeolla Province, known together as the
Banwol and Bakji Island of Sinan County, South Jeolla Province, known together as the "Purple Island," have been included in the United Nations World Tourism Organization's "Best Tourism Villages" list, announced Thursday. Korea Times file

By Kwon Mee-yoo

Two Korean tourist sites ― the Purple Island and Ungok Village ― made their way onto the list of "Best Tourism Villages" awarded by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

The U.N. agency dealing with tourism announced its inaugural "Best Tourism Villages" list during its 24th General Assembly in Madrid, Spain, Thursday. There, the Purple Island of Sinan County, South Jeolla Province, and Ungok Village in Gochang County, North Jeolla Province, were recognized as outstanding examples of rural tourism destinations.

The initiative aims to encourage tourism to rural villages, while safeguarding them and resolving regional imbalances through sustainable development in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals. This year, 44 villages from 32 countries were included in the first selection based on nine criteria, the first being their cultural and natural resources.

"Tourism can be a driver of social cohesion and inclusion by promoting a fairer distribution of benefits throughout the territory and empowering local communities," UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said.

"This initiative recognizes those villages committed to making tourism a strong driver of their development and wellbeing," he added.

From left, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, Sinan County Head Park Woo-ryang, Gochang County Deputy Head Lee Joo-cheol and Second Vice Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Kim Jung-bae pose after the Purple Island and Ungok Village were included on the
From left, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, Sinan County Head Park Woo-ryang, Gochang County Deputy Head Lee Joo-cheol and Second Vice Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Kim Jung-bae pose after the Purple Island and Ungok Village were included on the "Best Tourism Villages" list for 2021 at the UNWTO General Assembly in Madrid, Spain, Thursday. Courtesy of Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism

The Purple Island consists of Banwol and Bakji islands off the southwestern coast of Korea. Some 130 residents of the islands painted their houses and other facilities purple, inspired by their native balloon flower ("doraji" in Korean), as well as planted purple flowers to change the villages' aesthetic features, making the islands into a tourist attraction.

Ungok Village is known for its wetlands and dolmen site. Its villagers developed ecotourism based on these natural and historical sites. Ungok Wetland was designated as a Ramsar Wetland site in 2011, according to UNESCO's Ramsar Convention on wetlands, and the dolmen site, considered the largest dolmen group in Korea, is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Second Vice Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Kim Jung-bae said that the two winners introduce Korea's lesser-known tourist attractions to the world

"It is an example of how Korea overcomes social issues such as regional disparities and the decline of the rural population through tourism," Kim said.

Meanwhile, Kim also had a meeting with Fernando Valdes Verelst, Spain's Secretary of State for Tourism, where he discussed projects for the Korea-Spain Mutual Visit Years, which have been extended through 2022.


Kwon Mee-yoo meeyoo@koreatimes.co.kr


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