Korea’s popular Templestay program will expand in 2017 to include a total of 123 Buddhist temples across the nation, according to a recent announcement by the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism. Supported by the Ministry and run by the Cultural Corporation of Korean Buddhism, the program is undergoing a major boost this year ahead of the expected influx of international visitors for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.
The Templestay initiative offers visitors a chance to try a short or long-term experience of Korean Buddhism, which has a history of 1,700 years on the Korean Peninsula. The program was spearheaded just before the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup to serve as a unique way for overseas visitors to experience traditional Korean culture. Since then, over 4 million people have tried a Templestay program.
The current expansion focuses on Gangwon-do, the province hosting the PyeongChang Olympics, scheduled for February 9-25, 2018. A total of 13 temples will be offering new programs, including Woljeongsa in Pyeongchang, Naksansa in Yangyang, Sinheungsa in Sokcho, and Baekdamsa in Inje. To help facilitate communication, around 150 extra interpreters will be on standby at temples in Gangwon-do and the general Seoul Metropolitan Area.
Along with the standard multi-day Templestay experience, two types of new short-term programs will be offered. The “Rest” program includes tea tasting, meditation, and other Buddhism-related activities. The “Experience” program includes standard activities, as well as walks with the monks and opportunities to make various Buddhism-related crafts.
The Ministry is also looking into ways of creating packages and related tour programs for MICE visitors, with the hope of including over 50,000 foreign tourists in Templestay programs this year. In order to streamline quality experiences for international guests, a total of 56 temples have been designated to offer expert services; of these, 24 temples will specialize in hosting foreign visitors, 16 will offer specialized programs, and a further 16 will specialize in Korean Buddhist temple cuisine.
“Making time for a vacation that incorporates elements of traditional culture as part of the overall experience is an ideal way to wind down from one’s busy working life, here in 2017 and beyond,” said Hwang Myeongseon of the Tourism Policy division of the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism. She added, “We therefore hope this is a way in which we can do our part to assist with the development of international events such as the PyeongChang Olympics, and also help create memorable experiences for Korea’s international visitors.”
To learn more about Korea’s Templestay programs, visit www.templestay.com.