Country Spotlight: Going Off Piste in South Korea

From staggeringly beautiful islands to the vibrant culture, bustling cities, and ‘Korean Wave’ phenomenon, South Korea is a destination on the rise.

South Korea attracts travelers from across the globe, domestic travel represented 70% of total tourists in 2017, and international tourist arrivals have doubled in the past decade. China currently dominates the international market, accounting for 36% of visitors in 2017, due, in large part to China’s unstoppable enthusiasm and love for Korean culture.

Ranked as the fourth richest city in the world in 2017, with a GDP of $779.3 billion, South Korea’s capital city, Seoul is the tourist hub, welcoming the majority of international tourists through Incheon Airport.

Jeju Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the crown jewel of South Korea. Listed as one of the ‘New 7 Wonders of Nature’, this volcanic island boasts white sand beaches, tropical national parks, crystal clear waterfalls and incredible vistas. A key feature of Jeju is Hallasan, a dormant volcano, which rises 1,950 meters above sea level.

70% of South Korea is mountainous and Gangwon-Do Province boasts many of the country’s most spectacular ranges. With an altitude of 1,438 meters at the Yongpyong Resort, it’s an ideal winter sports destination. This year, Pyeongchang, a county in Gangwon-Do, plays host to the 2018 Winter Olympics. South Korea may not seem the obvious choice for winter sports, but what the country lacks in tradition they make up for in efficiency: small-scale, contemporary resorts, an ever-expanding winter sports offering, and exceptional snowmaking.

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Whether you’re interested in the Winter Olympics, après-ski, or would like to visit the South Korean pistes once the games are over, here are two WATG-designed, snow-filled destinations to check-out:

Konjiam Resort, Gyeonggi-Do

Located in Gyeonggi-Do, 40 minutes from Seoul, the Konjiam Resort is one of the most luxurious ski resorts in South Korea. The year-round resort boasts the largest ski slopes in the Province, 476 boutique suites, a destination spa, and the Hwadam Botanical Gardens.

Unique features of the resort include an ecological stream flowing through the resort, a wine cellar housing 90,000 bottles of wine and the Konjiam Arboretum, which accommodates 3,700 species of plants and about 20 themed gardens.

Oak Valley Resort, Gangwon-Do

Located in the strikingly beautiful Wonju, the largest city in the mountainous Gangwon-Do, the 3,900-acre Oak Valley resort boasts spectacular views of the local area and comprises an alpine ski village, nine ski slopes, three golf courses, and residences.

WATG has been active in South Korea for more than three decades and has created some of the country’s most celebrated developments, including the Shilla Jeju; Hyatt Regency Jeju; Paradise City, South Korea’s first integrated resort; and the Lotte Hotel, Jeju.

The Shilla Jeju

The Southern Californian-inspired oceanside resort, comprises 429 luxury guestrooms, indoor and outdoor pools, a poolside bar, and a rooftop deck providing a 360-degree view of the beautiful island of Jeju. The lobby features a skylight, allowing light to flood the interior and illuminate the indoor pool. Our recent renovation of the outdoor Shilla Jeju pool features in Jay Park’s official music video for his hit single, ‘Drive’.

Hyatt Regency Jeju

Classically Korean, located in a prime position overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Hyatt Regency Jeju is a luxury 224-key, five-star hotel. The hotel’s design draws inspiration from the island’s indigenous architecture, the main building crowns a dramatic cliff edge offering a full 360-degree vista of the island and Jungmun Beach.

Lotte Hotel, Jeju

The elegant 500-key Lotte Hotel emanates Korean hospitality. The hotel’s design draws inspiration from historic European castles, and the majority of the rooms offer spectacular views of the picturesque gardens and the Pacific Ocean.

Paradise City, Incheon

The newly opened Paradise City showcases Korea’s rich cultural, social and commercial identity in the country’s first integrated gaming and entertainment resort. The ambitious design for the 330,000 square meter project includes a 711-key, five-star hotel; 103-key boutique hotel; entertainment and shopping plaza; premium spa; convention facilities; and Koreas’ largest casino.