This year marks the tenth anniversary of temple stay programs in Korea.
The program began in 2002 as the government and the Korean Buddhists community sought new ways to accommodate the growing number of overseas tourists who visited Korea for international soccer matches during the Korea-Japan FIFA World Cup.
Since then, temple stays have become a key tourism program, allowing visitors to learn about traditional Korean culture and Buddhism firsthand while experiencing the beauty of local temples.
The number of temples participating in the program grew from 33 in 2002 to 122 this year, and the number of participating tourists, both local and international, has also risen dramatically.
In 2002, slightly more than 2,500 people enjoyed a temple stay. In only two years time, the program had increased 14-fold to include 37,000 people in 2004 alone. More than 170,000 people took part in the program in 2010, and is predicted to surpass 710,000 this year.
To improve the quality of temple stay program, the Temple Stay Information Center run by the Jogye Order, plans to develop more programs with new and more diverse activities.
The center plans to introduce new programs targeting people with distinct interests in programs on temple food and multiculturalism and healing programs people dealing with divorce, unemployment and other problems.
Earlier this year, the center upgraded its English homepage and added access in Chinese, Japanese, German, French and Spanish. It also recently developed a temple stay application in English for smartphone users. The app contains not only temple stay information but also overall tourism information and pictures. (To visit the homepage of the Temple Stay Information Center, click here)
To celebrate the program’s tenth anniversary, the Temple Stay Information Center and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism held a cultural event from May 30 to June 1 at the Traditional Buddhist Cultural Center in Gongju, South Chungcheong Province. About 200 people, including the abbots of participating temples, attended the event.
By Yoon Sojung
Korea.net Staff Writer