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Korea's rivers see 10 million visitors

The number of visitors to the four restored rivers of Korea exceeded the ten-million mark earlier this month, proving their popularity as an ideal tourism spot. The ten-million count includes the number of tourists to riverside ecological parks, walking trails, bike paths, and campsites around the rivers after the opening of the weirs in October last year.

The top destinations among a variety of entertainment facilities around the Han, Geum, Yeongsan, and Nakdong rivers were the weirs which received 4.3 million visitors. It is the general perception that the weirs are the landmark facilities, each established with culture centers and resting places in the surrounding areas.

Visitors to the Hangang Culture Center located at Gangcheon Weir in Gyeonggi-do have a relaxing time Visitors to the Hangang Culture Center located at Gangcheon Weir in Gyeonggi-do have a relaxing time (photo courtesy of Weekly Gonggam).

Until recently, there were four culture centers along the four main waterways; Hangang Culture Center at Gangcheon Weir (April 29), Geumgang Center at Baekje Weir (May 5), Yeongsan Center at Seungchon Weir (May 12), and Nakdong Center in Eulsukdo (May 20). Less than four months after the last completion, the final culture center, the ARC, was founded at Gangjeong-Goryeong Weir on September 20.

The ARC, which stands for Architecture and Artistry of River Culture, was created by leading architect Hani Rashid who has years of professional experience and won the First Prize at the New York Chapter Design Award in 2007.

The ARC, established by world-renowned architect Hani Rashid, has been built to symbolize the Architecture and Artistry of River Culture The ARC, established by world-renowned architect Hani Rashid, has been built to symbolize the Architecture and Artistry of River Culture (photo courtesy of Weekly Gonggam).

“The ARC can be seen differently depending on where you look at it,” said Rashid. “It looks well harmonized with the river or the mountain or it can be seen as a shark from a distance. You cannot tell what it exactly looks like, but that is the point. My intention was that the architecture would be more in harmony with the surrounding landscape as time passes.” The basement of the three-story building has a display of photographs, videos, and exhibits showing historical changes to the rivers of Korea. The promotional materials deliver the scenic beauty of the rivers, allowing a pleasant break for travelers.

In recent years, cycling along the newly established bike trails around the rivers also has become a trendy leisure activity. Cyclists have flocked to the new riverside bike paths since the adoption of a certification system that awards a commemorative medal to those who collect stamps for all the biking courses. The bike trails have already gathered over 35,000 visitors within five months since opening. In light of the growing pattern, the Ministry of Public Administration and Security announced a plan to establish three additional bike paths by 2015.

East Sea Bike Path
The 720-kilometer bike path, the longest in existence, will connect the Goseong Unification Observatory located at the northernmost part of the Korean Peninsula to Eulsukdo in Busan, the final destination of the Nakdong River bike path. Following the eastern coastal road, visitors will encounter miles of golden sands and beautiful seaside pavilions.

Three additional bike trails will be established along the East Coast, Gyeongchun Line, and Seomjingang River, making a total length of 931 kilometers by 2015
Three additional bike trails will be established along the East Coast, Gyeongchun Line, and Seomjingang River, making a total length of 931 kilometers by 2015 Three additional bike trails will be established along the East Coast, Gyeongchun Line, and Seomjingang River, making a total length of 931 kilometers by 2015 (photo courtesy of Weekly Gonggam).

Gyeongchun Line Bike Path
The Gyeongchun Line Bike Path will make use of an old railway, no longer in use due to the electrification of the line in December 2010. The 31-kilometer Gyeongchun Line Bike Path will take advantage of the geographical vicinity to residential areas, public transportation, and regional facilities, allowing tourists easier access. Also, the new bike trail founded along the former rail line will give off a nostalgic air where there used to be whistle stops, old railways, and tunnels.

Seomjin River Bike Path
The 154-killometer Seomjingang River Bike path will carry cyclists from Seomjingang Dam in Jeollabuk-do (North Jeolla Province) to Baealdo Beach in Jeollanam-do (South Jeolla Province). Reconstruction of the path will ensure the safety of cyclists and better use of the facilities.

Lately, a number of countries have been paying attention to the four restored rivers of Korea. In response, Korea hosted the World River Forum 2012 in Daegu on September 20 and 21 to discuss an effective and future-oriented approach toward climate-change issues throughout a wide range of areas such as ecology, environment, economy, and culture.

The leaders from water management organizations and experts from twelve countries seemed to have a high interest in Korea’s Four Rivers Restoration ProjectThe leaders from water management organizations and experts from twelve countries had a high interest in Korea’s Four Rivers Restoration Project (photo courtesy of Weekly Gonggam).

Leaders of water management organizations from twelve countries including the members of the Mekong River Committee from Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar took part in the forum and showed their keen interest in water resource management. The overseas leaders, on their tour around the riverside facilities, said that they were impressed by the Korea’s water management skills which preserve the natural environment and water resources, and at the same time handle floods.

By Lee Seung-ah
Korea.net Staff Writer

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