Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Free entry to national parks? Not really

Since the beginning of 2007, the Korean government has made entry to its parks free.

Since the beginning of 2007, the Buddhist temples residing in the parks have begun collecting increased fees at the gates.

The result is a slight decrease in the total entry fee (and it wasn't very high to begin with).

Still, hikers who are there simply to climb are less than eager to pay fees for temples they won't visit. For me, the only problem would be waiting for the ticket booth to open in morning or trying to climb over the gate (I like to start my hikes, even short ones, early).

So far this year Odaesan, between Yangyang and Gangneung, has had about 90,000 more visitors than the same period last year (455, 854 people over 364, 290 last year). The increase is attributed to the reduced fees.

The Jogye Order, the nation's largest Buddhist organization, collects money from climbers in national parks where its temples nestle.
The group insists that it is inevitable to levy fees on climbers because its temples occupy 8.9 percent of national parks and require funds to maintain roads leading to the temples and cultural assets.
``We can't help but charge some fees because the temple surroundings are ruined as more climbers stream in since the government abolished admission fees,'' an official of the Jogye Order said.
He said they will protect their property rights, saying roads, camp sites and parking lots on the group's land, which the government built without the order's agreement, are illegal.
``Unless the government restores the ruined nature around temples, we will call for compensation.''
About 19 other temples in national parks levy fees of up to 3,000 won, almost double the admission fees the government levied previously.
Some temples impose toll fees on cars running on roads near temples, arguing they pass through land owned by the temples.

I'm torn on the subject.
I was (somewhat) surprised to learn that the government had built illegal roads and such and can see that the temples need to raise funds to maintain their grounds. Asking the congregation to pay is not reasonable as these are tourist sites and most visitors have no connection to the temple, or any temple.

Still, reading that some temples now charge double the government's admission fee and are making toll roads damages the temples' credibility.

1 comment:

Daniel Costello said...

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