Local and tourism officials backed a proposal by the Cebu South Korean community to establish a consulate in the province to help address their concerns, including peace and order.
They also reiterated that Koreans will continue to come to the province despite last month’s kidnapping of a Korean national by fellow Koreans in Cebu City.
Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale said a consulate is needed in Cebu due to the growing Korean population.
“Honorary Consul Augusto Go is very helpful but because of their numbers, they are eyeing a consulate here. I would support the move,” said Magpale, who chairs the Provincial Board (PB) tourism committee.
She said a consulate could help speed up the processing of visas for those traveling to and from South Korea.
But Magpale said it’s up to the South Korean government to set up a consulate office in Cebu.
Regional Director Rowena Montecillo of the Department of Tourism in Central Visayas (DOT-7) also welcomed the suggestion of Cebu Korean Association Inc. vice president Charlie Shin to establish a Korean consulate in Cebu.
“The problems and concerns would be attended quickly,” she said.
Montecillo said Koreans are the top foreign visitors in Cebu, followed by Japanese, and visitors from the United Sates, Australia and China.
Both Magpale and Montecillo said the August kidnapping incident, where a Korean tourist was held hostage by three other Koreans for three days in a Lapu-Lapu City safehouse till his friends raised $7,000 in ransom, won’t affect tourist arrivals from South Korea.
“What’s good was that there was a swift resolution. At least they couldn’t say they were not attended to. That’s why they said they still prefer Cebu,” she said.
Magpale said the province established a Task Force Turista to take care of the various concerns of visiting foreigners in the province.
She said the task force once helped some German visitors locate one of their own in Bohol province.
Montecillo said Koreans would still visit Cebu for its beaches, resorts and affordable English language schools.
“The incident was co-national and not done by a Filipino. I’m very positive that our Korean arrivals would increase,” she said.
Based on DOT, Montecillo noted there were 165,601 Korean arrivals from January to June this year or a 55 percent increase from the 106,267 tourists for the same period last year.
“They would rather stay in the resort areas,” Montecillo said.
She said they are promoting Cebu as an English education hub with top-of-th- line resorts, hotels and restaurants that’s also near other tourism spots like Bohol and Siquijor in Central Visayas.
Cebu City Councilor Margot Osmeña said the recent kidnapping incident should be looked into by law enforcement agencies because this wasn’t the first kidnapping of a Korean that she heard of.
“But they don’t stop coming anyway. But whether it affects tourism or not, this is something that we should not allow to happen (while they are here). They should also learn to discipline their own ranks,” she said.
Osmeña said she intends to dialogue with the Korean community in Cebu for this purpose.
“It’s not just a matter of tourism only but a matter of telling them that they should also respect our culture, the way we are,” she said.
Cebu City is co-sponsoring the first Korean Day celebration on Sept. 30 to Oct. 1 as part of the city government’s effort to show its appreciation to the Korean community.
In Lapu-Lapu City, Councilor Harry Don Radaza said he wants to discuss the kidnapping incident with the council.
The kidnap victim identified as Kwon Young Hoon was detained in a safehouse in Lapu-Lapu City and was released two days later after paying ransom.
Radaza, who chairs the council’s tourism committee, said they established tourist police units to protect both domestic and foreign tourists visiting their city. /Carmel Loise Matus and Candeze R. Mongaya with Chief of Reporters Doris C. Bongcac and Correspondent Norman V. Mendoza