▲ Kimnyoung Maze Park founder, Fred Dustin, believes that it is important to give business profits back to the community. Photo by Darren Southcott
When asked why he donates so much of Kimnyoung Maze Park profits to charity, Fred Dustin replies: “You’re supposed to.”
Dustin, who has lived in Korea since the 1950s and moved to Jeju in 1971, began work on the maze in 1987 before opening its doors in 1995. The maze, designed by world-renowned maze designer Adrian Fisher, will attract its 5-millionth visitor next year.
The maze is consistently rated as one of Jeju Island’s top tourist attractions and up to 15 percent of its profits are plowed back into the community, something Dustin sees as unremarkable.
“It never really occurred to me not to do it. Plus, you get a little bit more value for your money by giving it away,” he says. The park’s marketing director, Lucas Kim, says visitors to the park are none-the-wiser: “We try to tell them, but they don’t care. They just want a good time.”
▲ The park’s marketing director, Lucas Kim, says that visitors are largely unaware of their philanthropy efforts. Photo by Darren Southcott
Causes supported include up to 60 million won to Jeju National University, 10 million won to a local senior citizens’ school, and 7 million won to local elementary and middle schools. It also currently runs a summer night program which allows Jeju National University students to gain crucial hands-on experience. Kim says the program sprang from a lack of interest among JNU tourism students in entering the industry.
“I asked the students — all seniors — how many wanted to work in tourism. Only five of them put their hands up,” he says, most of the others having been put off by low pay and poor work conditions. The maze pays well and aims to show that tourism is about “putting a smile on people’s faces.”
“Tourism is actually very charming; I want students to know its good side. So I said, okay we will pay well — twice what they earned before — and they can do all the work, from marketing to sales, even facilities. They learn everything about this company and the process of the tourism industry,” says Kim.
▲ A caricature of Frederic Dustin, with a couple of his many cats. Image courtesy Kimnyoung Maze Park
Making customers smile is thus a key mission of the six students who manage the operation from ice cream and ticket sales to accounting. While there is no fast track to working at the park itself, a current manager, Moon Daewook, is an alumnus. “Yes, he’s a damn good example,” says Dustin.
For the night tours, solar-powered lighting, LED lamps and glow-in-the-dark tape are used and candle lanterns are given to visitors to help navigate the maze. The night scenes are especially attractive for romantic couples, says Kim.
Students volunteer for the project through their respective departments and are then selected through interview. Although there is scope for talented students to excel, it is mostly hard graft for young adults with little work experience.
“Everywhere doesn’t operate like we do here, but at least they know that every place needs a system in operation, and they can look for that,” says Kim. “We give them a basic manual, but the rest they should learn themselves. How to sell more coffee, more ice creams.”
Dustin’s park was one of the early wave of tourism-targeted attractions on the island, which now number in the hundreds. He would like to see more of his community-based approach.
“If money is going to be made here, it stays here. Development should be for the people.”
▲ A map of Kimnyoung Maze Park
Kimnyoung Maze Park
122, Manjanggul-gil, Gujwa-eup, Jeju-si
*July 17 to Aug. 24, nighttime entry between 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Entrance fee: Adults 3,300 won / Youths, Seniors 2,200 won / Children 1,100 won (500 won discount for Jeju residents / Free for Gujwa-eup residents and the handicapped)
Buses: Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal -#700 / takes 50 mins to Manjanggul Cave Entrance -> change to #900 / takes 3 mins to Kimnyoung Maze Park
Seogwipo Intercity Bus Terminal - #700 / takes 60 mins to Manjanggul Cave Entrance -> change to #900 / takes 3 mins to Kimnyoung Maze Park
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