Monday, May 21, 2001

Kim’s South Korea
trip aims to boost
Big Isle’s economy

The mayor will attend
a travel fair and meet
with tourism writers

By Leila Fujimori

Big Island Mayor Harry Kim will travel to South Korea May 28-June 4 to establish economic ties with his island.

"Because I am Korean, hopefully it will be a plus factor," Kim said. This will be Kim's first trip to Korea.

George Applegate of the Big Island Visitors Bureau said Kim "is sort of a celebrity in Korea -- the first Korean-American mayor."

So, the bureau will capitalize on his celebrity status by holding a media event to promote tourism on the Big Island. In Seoul, Kim will attend an annual travel fair, the largest travel industry event in Korea.

Applegate said the bureau came close to getting Korean Air to fly direct routes to Kona, but things fell apart due to economic slowdown.

"We want to continue the dialogue, and what better way than to bring along my newly elected mayor?" Applegate said.

On the trip, Kim will accompany Hawaii County Councilman Aaron Chung, Hawaii tourism suppliers and vendors, and executives of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, the Big Island Visitors Bureau and the Big Island Business Bureau.

"It would be a real economic boon to this island to have direct flights to this island," Kim said.

While in Korea, Kim will address travel writers, the travel industry and reporters in English and will try to incorporate some Korean language, which he said he "just barely" speaks.

Japan is also on the mayor's itinerary. He will join Gov. Ben Cayetano and other island mayors there in promoting Hawaii.

"Mayor Yamashiro did a fantastic job in establishing ties with Japan," Kim said of his predecessor. "We need to continue that." During Yamashiro's term as mayor, direct flights were established between Kona and Narita, Japan.

For Kim as a second-generation Korean American, thoughts of the journey to his parents' homeland bring on a flood of emotion.

"Sometimes when I think of it, I am overwhelmed with feelings of sadness instead of excitement," Kim said. "I hope it is replaced with excitement."

Kim said of his father, "He did not talk about his past because it was a very difficult thing, because we understand his family was all lost during the war."

While in Korea, Kim will meet for the first time with some of his relatives on his mother's side.

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