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Kil Ki-yon President and CEO, Seoul Tourism Organization

Mar 10, 2024

PHOTO: © SEOUL TOURISM ORGANIZATION

March 2024

THE BASICS
Name: Kil Ki-yon
Title: President and CEO
Company, City: Seoul Tourism Organization; Seoul, South Korea
First job: At a company named PIC
Where to next: I’m planning to visit Frankfurt to attend IMEX Frankfurt.

A LITTLE BIT MORE
What actor or actress would play you in a movie of your life? I would say Roger Moore. I have a vivid memory of his role in The Miracle, my favorite film, and how he overcame adversity in the 007 films.

What would you be doing professionally if you weren’t in your current industry?
Being interested in business, to the extent I ran my own travel agency in the past, I would lead a global trade business. Based on my history as a member of city council, maybe I could’ve been in politics, too.

What is your favorite book, movie or television show?
My favorite books are The Analects and Mencius; these books have been read for 2,500 years and tell us how humans should live.

What historical figure, dead or alive, would you love to have dinner with?
War, such as the conflicts between Russia and Ukraine, and Israel and Hamas, is a big issue. I would like to talk with former U.S. President John F. Kennedy about world peace.

THE BUSINESS
What is your most recent project, and what was the inspiration behind it?
Seoul is unique in that it has mountains in the urban center, and last year we opened Seoul Hiking Tourism Center, inspired by my international acquaintances who couldn’t enjoy mountain climbing because they couldn’t bring their usual gear, as well as a survey of thousands of international visitors. The center offers rental equipment and shower facilities and served 14,675 tourists in the last 20 months. We plan to open a second center this year.

What is your favorite aspect of the job?
The tourism and meeting, incentive, convention and exhibition industries are creative sectors that can produce new values. This work really suits me; I like to pioneer new things rather than work within an existing framework.

What’s the biggest business risk you’ve ever taken?
About 10 years ago I was inspired by trolley buses in San Francisco and began a business importing U.S. trolley buses to Korea. The safety inspections and import procedures were strict, but I pushed through, and Seoul and Namyangju purchased the buses for tourism. Since it was not easy to repair imported buses, I ended up selling trolley buses we manufactured ourselves.

Who is someone you admire professionally in the travel industry?
He is not exactly from the tourism and travel industry, but we have much to learn from the current mayor of Seoul, Oh Se-hoon. He developed significant landmarks, such as Floating Island Convention and DDP, and declared the 3-3-7-7 Seoul tourism vision. He made a large contribution to the development of the tourism and MICE industries through strategic marketing plans.

AS A TRAVELER
Tell us about a travel nightmare: I visited North Korea in 2003, when Geumgangsan Mountain Tourism Program launched. A journalist from a major broadcast station asked me to secretly film the panoramic view of North Korean cities from the mountain. North Korean soldiers investigated all 300 tourists who participated in the program to find the one who took the video. I never came forward, and my video was broadcast on the morning news when I returned to South Korea.

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