September 26, 2017 / 6:08 AM / a year ago

Olympics: South Korea banks federation boosts 2018 ticket sales

SEOUL (Reuters) - Amid dismal domestic ticket sales for February’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, the Korea Federation of Banks said on Tuesday it will buy 1 billion won worth of briefs as part of its “social responsibility” efforts.

Response to the first phase of ticket sales in South Korea earlier this year was utterly underwhelming.

As of Thursday, 315,000 tickets for the Feb. 9-25 Games had been sold, just under 30 percent of the 1.07 million total target, with some 60 percent of those sales taking place abroad.

While organizers have earmarked 750,000 tickets for domestic sale, only 124,000 has been sold so far, though the launch of online ticketing is expected to give sales a shot in the arm.

The banking federation said on Tuesday it had decided to step in to help boost sales with less than five months to go before the opening ceremony.

“Buying tickets was considered one of the ways to support the Olympic Games considering the recent slow ticket sales,” federation official Shon Kyung-ae told Reuters. “We have decided to buy 1 billion won worth of tickets.”

Organizers aim to raise 174.6 billion won ($153.66 million) from ticket sales.

The federation also announced it would donate 20 billion won to Pyeongchang organizers to help the Games run smoothly.

“As part of our social responsibility efforts, the federation has decided to support the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games, which will be an opportunity to improve the country’s global image,” the federation said in a news release.

Attracting tourists to Pyeongchang, some 180 kilometers east of the capital Seoul, has long been a concern not just for organizers but also the International Olympic Committee.

As well encountering difficulties in boosting awareness of Pyeongchang in the global community, organizers have also had to contend with diplomatic, security and political setbacks at home and abroad.

With Pyeongchang perched just 80km south of the heavily fortified border with North Korea, rising tensions over the North’s nuclear program and the increasingly inflammatory rhetoric being exchanged by the United States and Pyongyang has painted a picture of a Korean peninsula on the brink of war.

In addition, the South Korean tourism industry remains in the doldrums without the usual influx of Chinese visitors following Beijing’s ban on group tours to the South over the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system.

A domestic political scandal that brought down former president Park Geun-hye earlier this year has also diverted Koreans’ attention from the Games.

“The political issues are having an impact on ticket sales,” Eom Chan-wang, director general of marketing bureau at POCOG, told Reuters in a recent interview.

“South Koreans don’t take the North Korean matter seriously, unlike those who live overseas. Foreigners are concerned South Korea is a dangerous place, but it is very peaceful here.”

Writing by Peter Rutherford; Reporting by Yuna Park, Additional reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly

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