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367. Dark Tourism

A nation that forgets its past has no future

So, Yi-hyeon 기자2017.09.08 17:43:44


Tourism has become a favorite recreation for modern people who dream of breaking away from everyday life. As time goes by, tourism is showing up in various forms. In the past, people usually enjoyed viewing spectacular natural scenery and visiting cultural heritage sites. Since then, tourism has been transformed into taking trips to find places where visitors can experience the real life of the residents, for example exploring alleys rather than famous places. Recently a new form of tourism called ‘Dark Tourism’, which means traveling in places where historical tragic events have occurred or places related to such events or incidents thereof, has become popular worldwide. This form of tourism is also called ‘Urban Discovery.’


 While tourism is generally aimed at pleasure, dark tourism is about visiting dark sites with painful memories such as the scene of a disaster or a war damaged area, concentration camps and so on. An increasing amount of people are choosing to spend time on trips for self-development and introspection rather than just for enjoyment. For example, there is the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. This is where four million people were slaughtered by the Nazis in Germany during World War II. Those who visit the Auschwitz concentration camp can see the remains of the gas chambers and torture rooms that the Nazis used during the Holocaust. Recently, a '9/11 Memorial' has been created in New York City in the United States, as well as Ground Zero. It was created to commemorate the 9·11 terror that killed more than 3,000 people. These spots have become worldwide attractions for tourists to visit.

How have these forms of tourism become so popular today? Various media coverage has been influential in arousing people’s interest. In addition to documentaries, there are also contents related to dark tourism in entertainment programs. In the famous TV show, <Infinite Challenge>’s ‘Great Heritage’ series, some guest members visited Seodaemun Prison History Hall to make a song related to history. Some of them also visited Hashima Island, Japan, where conscripted Koreans were forced to work as laborers in the Japanese colonial era. Thanks to the media outlets, the public has become interested in dark places and now has the opportunity to look back on painful history. Moreover, with the interest in dark tourism, some local governments have become more active in promoting such places as tourist spots for historical education, which can contribute to the regional economy.


On February 18, 2003, there was a big disaster in Daegu, which was recorded as the worst subway disaster ever experienced. This was the result of an arson attack carried out by a 50-year-old mentally disabled person at the Jungang-no Station. It has been 14 years since the incident occurred, but it still remains as an irreversible scar for the people involved. The ‘memorial hall’, located in the second basement level of the Jungang-no Station, is filled with memorial messages from the families of the deceased and other citizens. It also contains the exact location of the accident which was not revealed to the public. Another place is the Daegu Safety Theme Park, which is located at the foot of Palgong Mountain. It was opened in December 2008, five years after the Daegu subway disaster. The theme park features the only subway escape simulation facilities in Korea. Through these various kinds of safety education, one can prevent accidents in everyday life and learn how to deal with earthquakes, fire, and heart diseases.


Experts point out that local governments need to approach the dark tourism industry with care. If tourism courses are developed without sufficient historical investigation and just for the purpose of regional activation, this could lead to a misinterpretation of historical events. If distorted historical facts are used as tourist content, it can be difficult to undo the damage, so the facts must be thoroughly validated. Since the same historical phenomenon can be interpreted differently depending on the perspective, the people in charge should consider the possibilities of the various interpretations rather than merely conveying one view. Furthermore, although it is important to show the historical pain in a truthful way, this should also include the process of sharing and healing social wounds. This is the lesson that we have to learn through dark tourism, reminding ourselves not to forget dark memories, and to prevent history from repeating itself.


 


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