Mr. Sejoon You, is currently serving as the Executive Director of the Korea Tourism Organization NY Office.
Mr. You began his career with KTO in 1985. He has held several overseas positions over the years, from being a Manager at the Chicago office, to being Director at the Sydney office in Australia. Within the main office in Seoul, Mr. You has participated as Chief Secretary, as Director of the Conventions Team, as a visiting Executive Director of Marketing Department at the Gyeonggi-do Tourism Organization, Director of the Marketing Strategy Team, and as Executive Director of the Overseas Marketing Department
Travel Research Online: What was your experience in travel? Did travel experiences from your childhood influence how you see your work now?
Sejoon You: My earliest experience in travel took place during my childhood and it definitely influenced how I see my work today. As a child, I would travel with my parents and we’d visit nearby towns and visit relatives in other parts of Korea, and in doing so I developed a taste for travel, for the differences in cuisine and ingredients from one region to the next. It showed me how much culture, history, and natural beauty there was to see and explore.
TRO: Why did you first get involved in the travel industry?
SY: I decided to get involved in the travel industry, because throughout my university years and right after graduation, I had the yearning to show others what my country has to offer. There is so much history, culture, and food to be explored and experienced. I was, and still am passionate about sharing the beauty of our destination with non-Koreans. I could have chosen the road of diplomacy, such as becoming a Consul or an Ambassador, but I chose the travel industry because it would allow me to promote my destination to everyone, to the masses, not just to high ranking government officials.
TRO: What is your favorite part of your daily job?
SY: This is hard to answer because I enjoy most aspects of my job, but if I must choose a favorite I would say it is meeting new people, hearing their stories and learning where they come from, and what makes them smile. When I interact with people in this way, I get to share with them about my own story, my country and what makes me so passionate about Korea. Its a win-win situation for me. If I were born again, I would definitely choose this same career.
TRO: From your position of working with travel professionals, do you see anything that is currently holding much of the industry back?
SY: I don’t think there is much holding the industry back, however, I do think there is an important challenge to be conquered by the whole industry. I’m speaking about tourism practices that may be irresponsible, that may be focusing simply on the numbers, or profits, about the reckless practices that may destroy natural habitats, millenary traditions, unique customs or languages. The travel industry as a whole should aim to practice and promote sustainable and responsible tourism. We should always preserve the native, the authentic, whether it is tangible or intangible, in doing so everyone will win, from the tourists who will have places and cultures to explore for generations to come, to those locals who live and interact with tourists. If we do things right, they will be able to preserve and cherish their natural environment, their unique culture, history, and language.
TRO: Tell us about Korea – why should a travel professional be interested in Korea as a destination?
SY: There are many reasons why a travel professional should be interested in Korea as a destination. To begin, we have a unique culture and history that spans more than 5,000 years, we have a total of 11 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the most recent addition being Namhansanseong Provincial Park located in Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do, which was added to the UNESCO list this past June. Our cuisine is becoming popular around the world and we have culinary tours that allow clients to explore our country in a deeper and much more personal way. Korea is also one of the most modern and vibrant nations in the world, there is a plethora of world-class designed buildings, art galleries, museums, exclusive designer boutiques, restaurants, film and music venues, and more. Few countries have had the privilege and capacity to host major international sporting events. Korea is among those elite destinations that have hosted the Olympics, the World Cup, and in 2018 we will be hosting the Winter Olympics. There is also time and space for those seeking peace and nature. Our Buddhist Temples offer “Temple Stay” programs where clients can live inside these temples and take part of the daily activities with the monks, or if you prefer to see natural sanctuaries, you can explore Suncheon Bay in Jeolla Province, which is home to perfectly preserved wetlands that offer rest and food to migratory birds and local plants, or perhaps Mt. Halla in Jeju Island, Korea’s largest island and one of the new 7 Wonders of Nature. From the budget conscious to the haute clients, form the history buff to the thrill seeker, Korea offers so much to see and do, and it does so in a safe and welcoming environment.
Is there any aspect or part of Korea Tourism Organization that you think more travel agents should be aware of?
SY: I think more travel agents should know that our organization is a reliable and trusted resource to provide information that will empower them to successfully sell Korea to their clients. We offer training completely free of charge on an ongoing basis on our Online Travel Education Program, a site that will make agents experts in Korea, simply by following this link and exploring at their own leisure and pace.
TRO: Is there anything new or exciting on the horizon for KTO?
SY: Like I mentioned briefly before, in 2018 Pyeongchang will be host to the Winter Olympics. This area is to Korea what the Alps are to Switzerland. It’s going to be an exciting time for everyone and it promises to be a great international sporting event. But please don’t wait until then, Pyeongchang is an outdoor destination that is open all year round. In spring the area comes to life in bloom, in the summer time there are great hiking trails and outdoor activities to be enjoyed, in the fall the colors of the foliage will mesmerize clients, and of course, this area becomes a winter sports wonderland when the cold months arrive.
We are also excited about the newly opened Taekwondowon, though this a bit of a niche market, I strongly encourage agents to direct their clients to this venue. Taekwondowon is the world capital of all things Taekwondo, but it is located in the valley of Muju and this location makes it attractive to everybody regardless of their affection of the sport or lack thereof. This area offers 360 degree lush hills, with accommodations that offer spa, modern and traditional medicine, and great outdoor activities.