Despite a sweltering heatwave this summer, as always, Incheon Airport was full of tourists. The tourism industry, recently, has received attention as an industry without a ceiling. The number of tourists is increasing and tour trends are now changing more rapidly than ever before. In particular, Jjan-nae tour, which means trying to save money and using it effectively while on a trip, and Yolo tour have been huge trends in Korea.
However, some people have turned their eyes to the new but unfamiliar trend of “Dark Tourism.” This is also called “Grief Tourism” and “Black Tourism.” As we can guess from the word “Dark,” Dark Tourism is where tourists can empathize with pain and learn a lesson by visiting sites of historical tragedy.
What are popular Dark Tourism destinations?
Auschwitz death camp and Ground Zero are the representative sites of Dark Tourism overseas. During World War II, the Auschwitz death camp was used by Nazis to torture Jewish people and conduct medical experiments. As a result, about four million of them were killed. Also, on September 11th, 2001, terrorists attacked the World Trade Center with a hijacked plane. About three thousand people lost their lives and more than six thousand were injured. Ground Zero is where the World Trade Center was built. Since these two places are so famous, both have guided tours and many people visit to commemorate the victims.
Seodaemun Prison history hall is one of the representative Dark Tourism destinations in Korea. Every year, about 700 thousand tourists visit this history hall and recall Korea's tragic history.
/Photograph from Seodaemun Prison history hall Facebook page
There are a lot of historical sites worthy of a visit in Korea, too. From 1910 to 1945, during the Japanese Colonial era, a number of Korean independence activists fought against Japan. Japan built Seodaemun Prison to imprison and control these activists. Now, Seodaemun Prison history hall is stated as a symbolic place of Korean modern history. Gwon Gyu-rin (16), who visited the history hall this vacation said, “When I first entered the hall, I was quite frightened because it was actually the place where our ancestors were tortured and killed. I reminded myself that I should not forget our history and never let this tragedy repeat. It was a great choice to visit there in my vacation.”
On the other hand, there is a tour destination that the government is trying to make as a popular dark tourism site. It is Paengmok Port in Jindo, Korea. Every April 16th, Koreans mourn for victims of the Sewol ferry disaster symbolized by the yellow ribbon, which took the lives of 305 passengers out of 476. At that time, people were shFocked by watching the sinking ferry live without any action by the government and it became a national trauma for a while and even until now.
To make matters worse, after the disaster, the number of tourists in Jindo rapidly decreased from 200 thousand to 80 thousand last year. The government then announced that they will complete the construction of a National Maritime Safety Center by 2021 to help revitalize the tourism industry in Jindo and make it a representative site of Dark Tourism. Thus, when the site of a historical tragedy becomes a tourist destination, the history will neither be forgotten nor repeated in the future.
Unfortunately, few Koreans are aware of Dark Tourism
Have you thought of who decides the definition of a Dark Tour? In fact, it is up to you. There is no guideline. It just depends on your own thoughts. For instance, Daegu city highlights the street as an attraction where Sunjong emperor came for a trip to get rid of Koreans’ anti-Japanese sentiments in the Japanese Colonial era. A lot of people criticized the construction work because there is no doubt to blame his pro-Japanese activities and even developing the street was nonsense. However, Daegu city refuted that and said looking back at our stigmatic history is another purpose of Dark Tourism. Which side do you agree with?
Although deciding the range of Dark Tourism is important, if Dark Tourism is not widely known, then the range is useless. Gwon Gyu-rin (16) mentioned she has never heard of the phrase “Dark Tourism.” She added “I just visited there to learn about history. But if there is a specific word for my tour, I think it would be better to recommend people to visit historical sites.” Another visitor, Bang So-hee (Junior, Entrepreneurship & small business) of Soongsil University said, “I usually enjoy visiting historical sites, but even I have not heard of it. If the local government tries to introduce the historical sites in connection with Dark Tour, more people would gradually realize what it is.”
Not every aspect of the whole tour should be related with history
We should not think of a Dark Tour as being difficult to plan for. When you plan for the trip, the number of times to visit historical sites is not important at all. The main purpose of Dark Tourism is learning a lesson and feeling empathy through historic sites. E.H Carr wrote in his book ‘What is History,’ “History is a continuous process of interaction between the historian and his facts, an unending dialogue between the past and the present.” Dark Tourism can be a means of the continuous interaction between history and us.
Seo Yoo-jeong firstname.lastname@example.org
<저작권자 © 동국포스트, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>