The 10th Korea International Boat Show (KIBS) is still on track to take place at the Korea International Exhibition Centre (KINTEX) with an on water section at the Gimpo Ara Marina in Seoul from May 25-28, 2017.

According to the organisers – the Gyeonggi Provincial Government, KINTEX and the Korea Trade Organisation (KOTRA) – the show will highlight the growth of the industry in Korea, where marina and boat numbers have grown considerably since the country introduced a program to promote boating as an active lifestyle for its population in 2009.

Tim Coventry the UK-based consultant for KIBS told IBI: "KIBS is now about to stage its 10th anniversary edition marking successive years of growth both in boat sales and the number of operational marinas. I feel Korea is reaching the level of a developed boating market where customers are informed on the benefits of boating and it is becoming a recognisable lifestyle. This year’s show will also see a formal agreement between Gyeonggi Techno and the Ara Waterway authority on training staff to further the development of the industry".

The numbers of registered boats in South Korea at the end of 2016 were 25,893, a substantial upturn from the estimated number of 5,000 which were in the market in 2008 before the government’s marina building program commenced. In 2008 there was only one full service marina in Korea located in Busan, now there 20 operational marinas with another 27 under construction or planned around the Korean coast line. What is perhaps more impressive, and shows the burgeoning interest in leisure boating, is the growth in recreational boat driving licences issued by the Ministry of Public Safety and Security which is now at 185,219 and growing at some 8% per year.

The majority of boats in the Korean market are in the size range from 4 metres to 8 metres representing the strong middle class aspect of the market in a country has an average GDP per head of over US$30,000, and a large coastline where low cost berthing and boat launching is possible. Past shows have had an increased focus on mid-size boats with brands such as Brunswick, Rodman, Sea Ray and Yamaha and an increasing presence of Inflatable boat brands many of them locally manufactured by builders such as Bay Industrial. These factors, combined with the propensity for Koreans not to display wealth, has led to a growth in smaller and more practical boats that can be used for activities such as leisure fishing, which is extremely popular. However larger boat brands such as Beneteau, Azimut and Sunseeker are still represented in the country by distributors.

The show also features an on-water section at Gimpo Ara Marina, situated at the junction of the Han River and the Ara canal, which links the Seoul River to the sea at Incheon port. The canal, just over 40km in length, has become a popular leisure attraction with cycle tracks and walkways along the entire length as well as a gateway for boaters to go to the sea from the previously landlocked Han River which was blocked due to the proximity of the border with North Korea.

Weather protection is another factor to be considered in Korea, where it gets cold and wet for about half the year. Conditions are more similar to northern Europe than the Mediterranean, leading to an influx of boats with protected wheelhouse stations. While most Asian boating markets such as nearby China are heavily focused on high-end boats such as flybridge cruisers, which are used for entertaining, Korea has many owners that skipper their own boats.

IBI’s Asia correspondent Mike Derrett will be reporting from the show.