History and Development of the Camping Industry and Culture in Asia

Kazuhiro Akase
Secretary General
F.I.C.C. Asia-Pacific Commission

If we talk about the "Improvements of Korean camping industry and culture," which was given to me as main topic of this symposium, it may be helpful to describe the history and present situation of camping in Japan. This is because Japan is the most developed camping nation in Asia, and its camping industry has a history of over 40 years.

In Japan, the camping using automobiles is called "autocamping," a comprehensive concept including the camping and caravanning. To introduce you the autocamping in Japan, let me first explain its historical background: About 40 years ago, in the 1960s, Japan entered an era of high economic growth accompanied by the motorization and increase of income. At that time, the word "autocamping" sounded very fresh and attracted more and more people to this new type of leisure. But it was only after the 1980s that the autocamping started a boom, exactly when the high economic growth was over and the stable or low growth period began. The working time became shorter, the number of holidays increased, and people started to place more value on the leisure than working, in other words, more value on the family than on the company. I believe this is comparable to the present situation in Korea.

If I summarize the investing bodies in camping industry, for the first stage, i.e. in 1970s, private companies came to invest in construction of camping grounds and production of caravans. At the second stage in 1980s local governments came to invest. And finally in the 1990s, not only the local government but also the central government invested a great deal in building auto campsites of high standard around the country so that Japanese could spend their leisure time in a healthy and economical way.

Now in Japan, about 8 million people enjoy autocamping at more than 1,300 auto campsites. According to the relevant statistics on campers, campsites and recreational vehicles, Japan is one of the biggest camping countries in the world.

From this experience in Japan, I could give some suggestions on the development of camping in Korea.

All preconditions for the development of camping are now mature in Korea. For one thing, Korea has already achieved the high industrialization and motorization. Korea is now the fifth biggest country in terms of car production and one of the OECD members.

At the same time, the high economic growth has formed a middle class of people. The middle class should be a core group of people who enjoy the camping and play an important role in its development.

We could say that Korea has a big advantage because you can make use of what Japan has done in the last 40 years. You can learn from Japanese experience. If you visit Japan, you can see a great variety of camping grounds, ranging from moderately comfortable sites run by private owners to the large auto-campsites classified with five stars of standard.

But I think the most important thing when learning from the Japanese experience is to pay full attention to the environmental issues. The construction of the camping ground is inevitably accompanied by a destruction of the natural environment to some extent. A number of trees must be cut down for construction of buildings and roads, and the natural landscape could be deformed.

For this reason, if nothing is done to avoid such situation, the camping activity will be criticized by many as being harmful to the natural environment. And in the worst case, the camping could end up being refused by citizens.

Therefore we should pursue a harmony between the camping and the nature. The development of the campsite should be done with minimum destruction of the nature. Also, the management of the campsite should go on in the same direction, saving energy, conserving natural resources and separating the waste for recycling. If the campsites are constructed and managed in this way, itfs even possible for them to become a frontline base for the protection of the natural environment or a good opportunity for the environmental education.

In this context, I would like to make some comments on the FICC International Rally to be held in Gapyeong. I believe that this Rally will be very meaningful from the following viewpoints:

1. Gapyeoung is just one hour drive away from Seoul, one of the biggest capitals in the world. Hence, the FICC Rally will give many Korean people a rare opportunity to take part in the international rally, and after the rally the camping ground will serve as a suitable resort for the urban dwellers.

2. This big event will give a strong impact on Korean people for developing the camping and caravanning in this country. All preconditions for this development are already mature. Examples include highly developed industrialization, widespread motorization, the full-grown middle class of people and so on.

3. The Gapyeong Jaraseom Camping Resort will provide a model case on how to design, construct and manage a camping ground in the natural surroundings. It will clearly show the public how the harmonious coexistence of nature and human beings is possible.

I hope and am sure that the FICC International Rally 2008 in Gapyeong will be a great success and bring to the Korean society a new leisure movement which will open a new page in the Korean history.

July 2008 (Symposium at Seoul Press Center, Korea)

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