Marine Environmentalists are concerned by this development.
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The current popular K-drama series Extraordinary Attorney Woo created an influx of tourist activities in the southern part of Korea, particularly the coastal city of Ulsan and Jeju Island.
Both destinations are already popular tourist spots, but lately, more tourists are flocking to these areas since the K-Drama about a female lawyer with autism spectrum disorder named Woo Young Woo became a sensational hit.
In this series, whales are Attorney Woo’s favorite animal.
Ulsan is already famous for whale-sighting and has benefitted from the popular series’ heightened interest in whales.
According to the Ulsan Nam-gu City Management Corporation, 4,924 passengers took the city’s whale tour as of mid-August, which already accounted for 76 percent of last year’s total passengers. The average number of people riding the boat has reached 259, more than double over the past year.
To add more fun for tourists, the city management corporation offered free entrance to all whale-related activities and facilities to visitors whose names start and end with the same letter, just like K-Drama’s main character Woo Young Woo.
For Jeju Island, a dolphin tour boat operator shared that dolphin tours have increased despite bad weather conditions, from 7 to 8 times, to 10 times a week after the series started airing.
Though this may be a good development for the tourism business in Jeju, a marine animal protection group is concerned because dolphin tour boats tend to sail too close to the dolphins and may threaten their ecosystem.
Currently, there are only 120 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins known to be living in Jeju’s coastal area and have been subject to the protection of the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries since 2012.
In 2017, the Ministry recommended that only two boats can simultaneously sail around the dolphins; these vessels should be at least 50 meters away. Unfortunately, the guidelines did not protect the dolphins as they have no binding power.
Jo Yak Gol, the co-leader of Jeju’s animal advocacy group, Hot Pink Dolphins, says this is not the right time for tourists to flock to Jeju Island on dolphin-watching tours.
This is not yet the time for dolphin tours, at least with the endangered species. When their population becomes stable again, that might be the time for humans to visit them. — Jo Yak Gol