Philippines Ambassador to Korea Maria Theresa B. Dizon-DeVega and Korea Tourism Organization President Kim Jang-sil shared economic and tourism potential of the two countries with CEOs attending the Global Biz Forum hosted by the Korea Herald on Wednesday.
Amb. Dizon-DeVega emphasized the forward-looking approach of both countries, noting the significance of the Philippines-Korea Free Trade Agreement signed on Sept. 7, 2023.
South Korea and the Philippines solidified their economic and industrial partnership by signing the free trade agreement. The agreement entails the removal of tariffs on 94.8 percent of all items by South Korea and 96.5 percent by the Philippines, aiming to enhance economic cooperation between the two nations.
“FTA can lead to strategic investments in priority sectors and industries for both the Philippines and Korea, she said, underscoring Korea as a valued trade and investment partner of the Philippines.
In 2022, the Philippines ranked fourth in total bilateral trade at $15.45 billion and sixth in total approved investments at $90.62 million, according to the ambassador.
She said that Korea was the Philippines' top source of tourists, with nearly 2 million visitors in 2019, and Korea has once again become the leading source of tourists for the Philippines, with 1,271,602 visitors as of Nov. 2023.
“Tourism is most impactful and effective if it works both ways,” said Dizon-DeVega, pointing to an increasing number of Koreans favoring the Philippines due to the growing popularity of Filipino culture, content, cuisine, and products.
The substantial populations of Filipinos in Korea and Koreans in the Philippines reflect the deepening people-to-people exchanges fostered through education and cultural programs, she said. Over 67,000 Filipinos reside in Korea while over 87,000 Koreans live in the Philippines.
KTO chief Kim Jang-sil highlighted the remarkable growth of the culture industry and Korean tourism, which attracts 17.5 million foreign tourists to Korea.
Kim referenced a report from the World Economic Forum that ranked Korea 15th in the Travel and Tourism Development Index 2021. Among 117 countries, Korea received a score of 4.8. Japan secured the top position in the rankings, with the United States and Spain following closely.
“Korea's goal is to reach 30 million foreign tourists and $30 billion in tourism revenue by 2027," said Kim, highlighting the tourism industry's potential and contribution to job creation and the global appeal of the Korean Wave beyond entertainment.
Despite economic challenges, Kim was optimistic about Korea's tourism industry and its high global competitiveness.