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Environmental tax controversyA proposal to charge travelers at Jeju’s ports and airports has provoked a mixed response
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승인 2014.02.25  14:07:25
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▲ All non-citizen visitors could soon be hit with an environmental tax upon arriving to Jeju Island. Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province

The Korea Legislation Research Institute has proposed a charge be levied against non-citizen visitors to Jeju Island as part of the island’s bid to become a world environmental capital. The funds collected will go toward reducing greenhouse gases and carbon emissions but have been criticized as a tourist tax.

The Korea Legislation Research Institute proposes that cruise and airline companies collect the fee from passengers on top of travel fares. The charge would amount to 2 percent of the ticket price, similar to current airport service charges.

The fee has been modeled on similar schemes in Belize and the Cook Islands. Belize authorities charge foreign tourists 3.75 US dollars for entry and the Cook Islands charge 10 US dollars, 20 percent of which is used for environmental protection. With annual passengers to Jeju now numbering 20 million, a 1-2 percent charge would add around 10-20 billion won to provincial coffers.

Vocal among the opponents is Ha min-cheol, chief of the Environmental City Committee. He said, “Who would accept the tax? We are not in a foreign country. The bid to be World Environmental Capital and protect the environment should be managed at the national level, but why is Jeju making money out of it?”

Moon Seong-jong, professor of tourism business management at Halla College, said, “It might be possible to charge the fee when entering world natural heritage sites, but if it is charged against all coming to Jeju, against public opinion, then there will be negative results.”

The island faces many similar challenges as it progresses toward World Environmental Capital 2020 status. The balance between tourism growth and environmental protection is an issue the province wants to be seen to be addressing. The visitor fee is one proposed solution to this although the initial reaction suggests it is a long way from being successfully implemented.

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