Ecotourism as opportunity for the sustainable development of tourism in South Korea and Asia generally is one key focus of this Sustainability Leaders interview with Dr. Mihee Kang of South Korea. Mihee, a research professor at Seoul National University, also introduces us to her initiative the Playforest Cooperative, aimed at demonstrating how nature-based tourism can benefit all, especially local communities.
- When Mihee first heard about sustainability and tourism;
- The biggest challenges of ecotourism;
- How tourism can help to conserve a country’s nature and culture;
- How the Playforest Cooperative promotes responsible tourism in South Korea;
- Why the support of government officials is so important in Asia to advance sustainability, and how it can be won;
- The current state of sustainable tourism research in Southeast Asia;
- Which are the main challenges of the Asian Ecotourism Network to succeed.
Mihee, do you remember the first time you heard about sustainability in relation to tourism?
Yes, I first learned about sustainable tourism during my first year of graduation school in 1993. ‘Environmentally Sound and Sustained Development’ (ESSD) was a buzz word in Korea when I started to study ecotourism as a good strategy for sustainable tourism development. Most people would be surprised to learn that forests cover 64% of the total land area in South Korea.
As an ecotourism consultant, which of your recent projects did you find particularly challenging?
Most of my projects are related to ecotourism certification and ecotourism development. The biggest challenge is that most initiatives are managed by the central government, and local stakeholders depend so much on the government’s financial support. I am concerned that these initiatives cannot survive without this financial support. Consequently, there is a lack of business approach.