by ALEX HYUN| @ahyundarkb4dawn
This year, the South Korean government has temporarily labeled Aug. 14 as an extra public holiday in conjunction with the country’s 70th Liberation Day holiday held on Aug. 15.
National Liberation Day, also known as Gwangbokjeol, commemorates Korea’s independence from Japanese 1910-1945 colonial rule, which ended after Japan surrendered to the Allies in WWII.
South Korea’s move to designate the 14th as a holiday is a response to the loss of morale and economic profits, which was spurred by the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak.
“We should make the 70th Liberation Day a turning point to boost the public sense of pride, revive the depressed atmosphere and boost consumers’ sentiments,” President Park Geun-hye said during a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, according to the Korea Herald.
Such a temporary holiday is not a new phenomenon in South Korea. In July 2002, a holiday was celebrated for Korea qualifying for the semi-finals of the World Cup. The opening day of the Seoul Olympics also saw a temporary holiday in 1988.
According to the Korea Herald, the government will exempt foreign travelers from paying motorway toll fees and will offer discounted tickets for railway travelers. Fifteen historic sites, including Gyeongbokgung Palace and Deoksugung Palace, as well as 41 recreational forests will be open for free during the Liberation Day weekend.
The government also plans to issue an order to close all public offices and agencies on the Aug. 14, a day before Liberation Day festivities begin. Private companies will be given the choice to follow this directive.
South Korea’s tourism industry has plunged in recent months due to the MERS scare, with a 41 percent decrease in incoming international visitors in June, compared to statistics from last year. However, South Korea declared an end to the outbreak on July 27, and foreign tourists have started making their way back to the country. On Tuesday, Seoul reported its 30th consecutive day without an additional MERS case.
South Korea’s Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan expects the temporary holiday to “induce about 1.3 trillion won worth of domestic consumption and create 46,000 new jobs,” according to the Korea Herald.
Featured image via Yonhap