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By Lindablue F. Romero

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (Sept. 15, 1999 – Saipan Tribune)---Asiana Airlines Vice President Young Keun Kim has asked Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio for his continued cooperation in ensuring the success of the airline’s daily Saipan-Seoul service.

In a letter to the chief executive, Kim said the daily service, which began on September 13, 1999, did not start as originally planned because of a delay in the delivery of a new aircraft.

"I can assure you that I have paid utmost efforts in my position to keep the promise made during my last visit," said Kim.

As a result of the daily flights, the Marianas Visitors Authority is planning to increase the CNMI's visibility in Korea, to better highlight the islands as ideal visitor destinations.

MVA has asked the Legislature for $1.75 million in additional funding for fiscal year 2000. Of this amount, some $175,000 would be allotted for a marketing campaign in Korea.

The planned increase in the marketing budget for the Korean market was also requested to accommodate the possible return of Korean Air to Saipan after an absence of two years.

Currently, MVA has set aside only $125,000 to promote the CNMI in Korea.

Board Chairman Dave M. Sablan and MVA Deputy Managing Director Vicky Benavente currently are in Korea for a two-day meeting with officials of the Korean Ministry of Construction and Transportation, to follow up on a the application of Korean Air for Saipan-Seoul service.

Visitor arrivals from Korea drastically declined after the pullout of Korean Air in August 1997, due to the tragic crash on the nearby island Guam and the plunge of the Korean economy amid Asia's financial crisis.

"There is actually no restriction on Korean Air to fly to Saipan. The Korean government just wants to make sure that all the safety measures are at par," said Sablan.

The Governor has said he is optimistic that with the recent strong growth of the Korean economy, the CNMI will once again regain the pre-Asian economic crisis visitor numbers.

Korea is the CNMI's second biggest source of tourists. Korean Air used to bring in an average of 12,000 passengers a month.

Since early this year, there has been a steady increase in the number of visitor arrivals from Korea, primarily due to the improvement in the Korean economy.

The Chairman of the Korean Air board, Yang Ho Cho, and a number of the airline's executives made a brief visit to the CNMI early this year, at which time they inspected a number of hotels on the islands. At that time, Yang expressed interest in resuming Korean Air service before the end of the year.

MVA has been eyeing the honeymoon market in Korea. Some 400,000 couples are expected to get married this year.

Many travel industry officials believe CNMI is in a position to get a bigger share of the honeymoon market since the crash in neighboring island Guam is still fresh in the minds of many Koreans.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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