South Korea - a market?

Travelling to Korea over the past 10 years in my work for the marine leisure industry, I have seen the rise of a Korean middle class. With the growth in the country’s economy and more leisure time (because of a five-day working week), boating has become a much more attractive pastime and Korea is fast becoming a rising star in the region.

How do you identify a growing boating market? The key issues are water, climate, access to the sea, government attitudes, the propensity for people to take up leisure boating and, last but not least, money. If all, or some of these are evident, there is every reason for boating culture to develop. So where does South Korea sit in the developing boating market rankings?

Water, climate and sea access

The availability of water and the associated land space for marinas, service facilities, launching and berthing is critical. Here Korea is well placed with a seaboard of 5,965 kilometres and a number of inland lakes and rivers. Because of the large coastline, land space adjacent to the water is generally affordable for the provision of facilities such as berthing, storage, maintenance areas and marinas. The climate in the northern part of South Korea is cold in the winter with warm summers while the south verges on sub-tropical climate in summer.

Government attitudes
Most importantly the government, backed by the local provinces, has for the past 10 years encouraged boating as a sporting and leisure activity, funding marina developments and training and putting in place transparent rules for the ownership and operation of pleasure craft. Ten years ago, there was one full service marina in Korea — now there are 16 with a planned total of 40 in the next three years.

Propensity for boating
The Koreans are practical people not inclined to show their wealth, a definite no-no in Korean culture. They are also a homogenous, nationalistic people having had few influences from outside cultures in their history. Driving on Korean roads you can immediately see this with 95% of the cars manufactured in Korea. Fish and fishing is a major recreational activity for Koreans and a key driver for the new boating market, and will skipper a boat themselves. These factors position the boating market towards the 5- to 9-metre length segment, with some form of cuddy protection for winter use and as a sun shade in the summer.

The economy, the money

South Korea is one of the most affluent countries in Asia with the economy able to provide increased consumer spending power. South Korea is now number 11 in the world ranking for gross domestic product in terms of US Dollars — US$1,538 billion in 2017. More importantly, translated into consumer spending power, it is now 14th in terms of purchasing parity power (a measure of what the currency can buy) at US$35,938 per head. That’s a rise from US$28,588 per head in 2008. This means a strong middle class, and one that’s looking for new experiences like recreational boating. With the key factors for growing the boating market in place, it’s no surprise that the number of registered leisure boats has increased to 31,145 this year from just 5,000 some 10 years ago. A visit to the annual Korea International Boat Show in May also showed how far this market has developed, with over 40,000 registered visitors attending the event.
Widget is loading comments...