EXPLORING KOREA: Incheon International Airport - A Tourist Attraction?

by Kim Hee-sung, 19/08/2008

Korea's international airport in Incheon is not only dedicated to conveying tourists to scenic sites in Korea but also to becoming a tourist attraction itself. Equipped fully with an exhibition center, a spa/sauna complex, a free internet café and other entertainment, the airport assures that people enjoy Korea thoroughly from beginning to end.

Cultural Activities at Souvenir Shop
The Korean Traditional Experience Zones located on the third floor of the airport is always bustling with overseas tourists wishing to make the best of their final moments in Korea.

Next to gates 24 and 40 of the airport, panerai replica watches one can easily spot some tourists gathered together to color in fans and paper boxes made of Hanji (Korean traditional paper) and learn all about “dancheong,” the five color decorations of Korea in blue, yellow, red, white and black. Other activities include making traditional kites, embroidery and needlework. After completing whatever crafts they choose travelers can then try on a modern Hanbok (Korean folk dress) and pose in front of a giant picture of a traditional Hanok House adorning the whole wall.

Some can receive a crash course in playing a traditional musical instrument. One German tourist said he had always wanted to play the short bamboo flute (called a “danso”) but he had never imagined that his wish would be answered in the middle of an airport.

With staff members fluent in English, Japanese and Chinese, over 61,180 people last year visited one of the two Korean Traditional Experience Zones. Some 100-200 tourists frequent the place each day, according to the manager of the Experience Zone, saying that the place is the best way to spend one's time while waiting for planes. The visitors would not only include tourists to Korea but also those simply passing through a Korean airport or overseas business people who hardly have time to tour the country due to their tight schedule.

On the second floor is a special exhibition jointly hosted by Incheon Airport and the National Museum of Korea since October last year. There are fine replicas of Korea's best national treasures such as a white porcelain vase, a golden crown from the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C. – A.D. 935), Cheonmacheong Tomb and more.

There will be various shows – concerts, pop music, gugak (Korean traditional music) martial arts demonstrations and more – at the Millennium Hall located in the center of the passenger terminal on the first and third Friday of each month at 2: 30 p.m.

Other interesting displays include a wax museum also on the third floor, where visitors can come face to face with 41 world stars including David Beckham and Madonna, along with Korean celebrities like actor Bae Yong-joon and baseball player Park Chan-ho.

Free Internet Café
NHN Naver (www.naver.com), Korea's number one web portal site has lately opened Naver Square, a free internet lounge for passengers at Incheon Airport. Naver Square can be found in four spots near the duty free outlets with over 130 seats and other convenience facilities.

The Naver Square also has a giant screen erected within to provide world times, foreign exchange, weather and other information around the clock. The place will also sell maps, writing materials and other basic equipment needed for travel – all at reasonable prices, with profits to be donated to charity.

Visitors will also be able to rent latest model laptop computers to try out. The service is in the process of being extended to passenger terminals, arrival gates, duty-free zones and other areas within the airport.

Naver Square follows the earlier opening of SK Telecom's U-zone, a place for people to “experience” ubiquitous devices on the third floor of the airport. The place showcases a so-called digital media broadcasting “digital hall,” telemetry service as well as online services like Melon and Cyworld. The cell phones displayed are supported in four languages: Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese, allowing free virtual entertainment for visitors.

Another IT display center set up by iRiver at Arrival Gate 12 on the third floor offers free usage of MP3 players, electronic dictionaries and Internet, among other gadgets.

Luxury service in the airport
The airport seems to be the last place to be able to relax, what with all the signboards flashing schedule after schedule, the constant public announcements and heavy baggage to drag along. CJ & City (http://www.nseoultower.com) has opened a spa/sauna on the eastern side of the passenger terminal in the first floor basement.

“Spa one Air” covering 1,350 square meters, is the only spa facility in the airport that can accommodate 2,000 people per day – it even has sleeping rooms.

Fitted with a luxurious interior that stresses a passenger's privacy, it offers Thai foot massages and body therapy to relieve traveler's stress at 15,000 won during the day and 20,000 won at night.
There's also a new kind of food court on the first floor. The new food space can serve 500 people at once and boasts dishes from seven countries namely Korea, China, Japan, the United States, Thailand, Vietnam and Italy. The prices will range from 8,000 – 10,000 won.

Meanwhile, even more businesses are eyeing for a space in Incheon Airport. An ice cream confectionary called Cold Stone Creamery, health and beauty chain Olive Young, beauty parlor Sergio Bossi, business café BizCoz and beverage businesses like tea T-Story and Starbucks are also some of the new entrants to the expanded airport.

About the Author: Kim Hee-sung is a Korea.net staff writer

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