This past weekend Cheongsan-do held the first annual "Slow Walking Festival" (세계슬로우걷기축제), and there are loads of pictures on it from the wire.
As you can see they invited some foreigners to come in and take photos, though they're looking here a little 재미없어. The title of the last one is "청산도 체험하는 외국인," and while people love to photograph foreigners doing just about anything remotely Korean, they could just have easily labelled the other photos "청산도 체험하는 한국인" because the "slow cities" are so counter what most Koreans experience in their daily lives. Rural life has become quite exoticized: the rural experience and its daily chores have become the basis of a popular reality show, and even today Koreans will deny that elements of it exist into the 21st century. That's essentially what these slow cities symbolize, isn't it? A real-life, fully-functional folk village? Well, real-life until the older generation dies out, and fully-functional until it stops supporting itself by means other than the tourist industry. Not a bad idea, perhaps, and on that note I'll quote something I wrote last month, because I know you wouldn't click through the link and read it there:
It reminds me of something I thought a lot about while I was in Vietnam this past January. Tourists were spending lots of money---by Vietnamese standards at least---to visit floating markets and ramshackle villages in the Mekong Delta; I'm sure the locals appreciated the extra money, but I wonder what they thought about people paying to experience what poverty and isolation necessitate. I wonder, too, what the people who live in Jeollanam-do's "slow cities" have to say about this designation. I was going to write that I'm glad to see places in Jeollanam-do getting some attention, but after seeing the way people run rough-shod over the rural flavors of the month on TV, I wonder if it's not better to just leave these communities alone.Meanwhile, the Korea Tourism Organization plans to offer hands-on experience of slow cities nationwide.
I thought about this, too, in Vietnam, and wondered if locals would be interested in doing something like a rural experience weekend, where they . . . um, experience rural life for a weekend. Koreans have come to render the rural part of their country exotic, to the point of denying it exists to outsiders, though watching tear-jerking commercials tells me there are still flickers of appreciation for it somewhere. Likewise, a popular TV program is all about celebrities acting like fish out of water in remote farming communities. Again, ironic to pay to do what poverty and geography necessitate, but I chuckled to myself that as South Korea is trying its hardest to promote tourism and its local attractions, foreigners from all over the world were paying to boat down a dirty river and take pictures of decrepit shelters and crowded alleys.