Koreans have only started to enjoy recreational boating in the past decade, encouraged by a government determined to make leisure marine a thriving sector for the country’s economy. Korean GDP grew at 2.8% in 2013, picking up from a couple of years with the economy expanding at a mere 2% having nosedived from 6.3% growth in 2010. The upward trend is estimated to continue throughout 2014, however, with annual expansion forecasted to be in the 3.8% mark – boosted particularly by the rebound of the US market. The macro-economics bode well for growing boating. so, on paper at least, does the geography with south Korea being situated on a peninsula and flanked by water. However, the coastal regions were opened to the public just six years ago and today only a small portion of the 50-million inhabitants go boating for leisure. But that trend is increasing.

South Korean marina development projects Completed (20) Developing or under construction (12) On final planning phase (2)

South Korean marina development projects
Completed (20); Developing or under construction (12); On final planning phase (2)

Boat registration and boat driving licences have been rocketing since 2008. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for registered boats is 15.9% for the five-year period to 2013 totalling 15,285 units similarly, the total number of boat driving licences issued in the same period is 140,137, a 7.2% CAGR.

“Many Koreans see ‘yachting’ as a hobby only open to rich people,” says David Han, manager at the Korea Council of Marine industry association (Kcomia). “as the number of leisure boats in the sea increases, adequate marina infrastructure is also needed,” he adds.

in addition to becoming more affluent, south Koreans have more free time at their disposal. “The Korean people have the ability to go boating and enjoy sailing, but the problem is the lack of marine facilities. there are marina projects in build along the entire coast, and by the time the construction is completed our boating culture would also be more developed,” says Young Jae Choi, manager of Seoul Marina. the marina opened in April 2011 and can accommodate 90 boats of up to 21.3m (70ft). “Today we are at full capacity with motoryachts taking 60% and sailing yachts 40% of our moorings,” notes Choi.

Note: This is an excerpt of the country report published in the February/March issue of IBI magazine. IBI Plus subscribers can download the full report  from the IBI Plus website.