By Kwon Mee-yoo
Seoul City has started a tour program featuring the attractions that were used as backdrops on the KBS hit TV drama "IRIS"
to help boost "hallyu", or the Korean wave.
The program sponsored by the city aims to draw more international tourists interested in Korean TV dramas, actors and actresses.
The thriller depicting a spy conspiracy between South and North Korea started airing in Japan from April 21 through TBS and marked a viewing rate of over 10 percent.
Seoul supported the drama by allowing filming to take place throughout the city. For instance, Gwanghwamun Plaza was even closed down for a day to shoot several action scenes ― the gunfight and explosion scene was chosen as one of the most blockbuster aspects of the series.
Seoul City said the areas used in the filming became much more popular after the broadcasting of "IRIS"
"The number of visitors to the observatory in Dream Forest, northern Seoul, has doubled from 700 to 1,500 after the airing of the drama", a city official said. The observatory was the backdrop for the scene in which Kim Hyun-jun, the National Security Service agent character, played by Lee Byung-hun
, met the president.
In addition, "Riverview 8th Avenue", an observatory looking over the Han River on Gwangjin Bridge, tripled the amount of visitors.
"Major attractions in the tour route appear on the later part of the drama and we expect it will gain more popularity in late May or June", the official said.
In addition to the Seoul tour, Hana Tour devised a three-day Jeju Island program covering Iris filming locations such as Haevichi lighthouse and Seommora garden.
"We expect the special packages to draw more than 1,000 tourists from Japan as Lee has many fans there", an official of the tour agency said.
The tour program mainly targets Japanese and Chinese tourists, but it might have another chance to attract more visitors from the West.
Taewon Entertainment, the producer of "IRIS"
, said there are plans to export the drama to the United States. According to the company, they will edit the series to 12 episodes from the original 20 aired in Korea. "If we complete the contract, "IRIS"
will be the first Korean drama broadcasted on major U.S. networks", a Taewon official said.