The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has selected Pyeongsa-ri Village in Hadong-gun County, Gyeongsangnam-do Province, as one of its Best Tourism Villages of the year.
Since Sinan Purple Island in Sinan-gun County, Jeollanam-do Province, and the villages of Goindol and Ungok Wetlands in Gochang-gun County, Jeollabuk-do Province, were chosen last year, the UNWTO's selection of another Korean village this year holds great significance.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on Dec. 21 said, "Among 130 villages from 57 countries worldwide that applied, 32 received the designation of Best Tourist Village through evaluation by the UNWTO's Advisory Board."
Located in the county's Agyang-myeon Township, Pyeongsa-ri was the setting of the epic novel "Toji" ("The Land") by leading writer Park Kyongni (1926-2008). The book depicts the nation's turbulent modern and contemporary history from the end of the Joseon Dynasty in the early 20th century to 1945, when Japanese colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula ended, through the eyes of the Choi Champan family over several generations.
Pyeongsa-ri has 176 residents spanning 99 families. As the setting of a literary saga, visitors to the village can feel the country's history and traditional culture at Park Kyongni Literature Park and Choi Champan House Hanok Culture Center and through the Toji Literature Festival.
Along with Starway Hadong, a cultural complex consisting of the observation platform Skywalk, resort, cafe and convention center, the village is full of cultural tourism content such as slow city, picking tea leaves and harvesting marsh clams.
The ministry said, "Through earning the honor of 'Best Tourism Village' for two consecutive years, Korea's regional tourism content has received global recognition as an outstanding example of resolving social issues like depopulation through tourism. This provided an opportunity to boost Korea's leadership in international tourism."
Since last year, the UNWTO has used its rankings to tackle problems such as sustainable development of regional tourism and decline in rural population. Application for the designation is limited to a village with a population of under 15,000 and whose economy is based on agriculture, forestry, fishing or livestock.
Along with Pyeongsa-ri, this year's honorees included Italy's Isola del Giglio, Switzerland's Murten and Andermatt, Peru's Lamas and China's Dazhai.