Businesses, Seoul City Government Catch On To Easy Camping

by Kim Eun-Jung

SEOUL, July 11 (Bernama) -- Thirty-one-year-old Jun So-hyun bought a pop-up tent for the Seoul International Firework Festival last year, hoping to enjoy some leisure time.

She ended up rarely using it, stashing the tent in a corner of her studio apartment.

"It's not easy to go camping outside the city because I don't have a car," South Korea's Yonhap news agency quotes Jun as saying.

People usually think of streams and mountains in rural areas when they think of camping, hoping to get away from city life and the metropolis.

The city government of Seoul is telling them otherwise.

For people who want to enjoy camping but do not have the time to get away, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is opening camp sites next week along the Han River with full amenities.

One will be able to use the grounds for 20,000 won (about US$20), an amount that beats all other costs for accommodation in the pricey city.

Camping has become an increasingly popular activity in South Korea, with outdoor equipment stores popping up all across the nation in the past few years.

The number of campers in South Korea, estimated at about 600,000 in 2010, jumped to some 1.3 million in 2013, according to Statistics Korea. The number is expected to increase to over 2 million this year.

Industry data showed that the camping equipment market is estimated to reach about 600 billion won (US$589 million) this year, a 20 percent jump from a year ago.

While campers searched through rural retreats or mountains in the past, city dwellers have found simpler and quicker getaways.

Camping stores have caught on to the shift from serious, full-kit campers to those wanting a more light-hearted outdoor experience.

"While there were more customers who bought tents to go to less-visited sites outside of the city in the past, I see more people who are looking for small, portable tents to go to festivals or the Han River these days," said a retailer of Kovea, a Korean camping equipment manufacturer in Jongno in downtown Seoul.

"New kinds of camping gear have made camping easier."

Riding the trend, outdoor brands are trying to attract customers with convenient tents such as the "3 second tent" and the "one-touch tent."

"Easy and fun camping has become a trend as people don't want to get stressed even at camping sites," Kim Baek-kyu, Black Yak product development manager, said.

"Not only the beginners but also experienced campers are looking for products that are easy to use," Kim said.

The city is set to open four camp grounds along the Han River for one month starting on July 19. Camp sites in Yeouido and Ttukseom opened for the first time last year, while those in Jamwon and Jamsil debut this year to meet the growing needs.

"I booked a site at the Yeouido camping ground for a July weekend because I want to sleep where I watch the fireworks," said Jun, an office worker in southern Seoul. "It will be a different city experience."

Among the four sites, Yeouido is the biggest with 200 spots, while each of other sites accommodates 100 tents.

The Yeouido camp site is located near the financial district with high-rise buildings such as the International Financial Centre and 63 Building, and the National Assembly. It is also next to an outdoor swimming pool, colourful fountains and a baseball field.

"Preparing food and camping gear is a lot of work, so sometimes, I want to take it easy," said father of two Kim Ji-hoon.

"Parents also need some rest. I want to unleash my kids to mingle with others and sit back," he said.

During the camping season, the city government offers a variety of cultural programmes and festivals day and night.

Yeouido holds street festivals and a boat racing contest, while Ttukseom shows movies and opens farmers' market.

In Jamsil, children can have ecological experiences in the riverside forests , and Jamwon screens movies under a Han River bridge and offers ecological programmes.


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