This year’s Korean International Boat Show, the seventh edition, which ran from June 12 to 15 showed an increasing focus on mid-size boats. With 300 exhibitors and some 30 boats on display in the KINTEX exhibition centre in the country’s capital, Seoul, the largest boats on show were in the 30’ to 35’ range. The exhibition was clearly geared towards mid size boat manufacturers such as Brunswick, Rodman, Sea Ray and Yamaha although larger boat brands are still represented in the country by distributors. Korea is one of the few countries in Asia with a large middle class population and an extensive coast line. 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. Weather protection is another factor to be considered in Korea where it gets cold and wet for about half the year, more northern European conditions than Mediterranean, which has shown an influx of boats with protected wheelhouse stations. While most Asian boating markets such as nearby China are heavily focused on the high-end boats such as flybridge cruisers, which are used for entertaining, Korea has many owners that skipper their own boats.
The opening of the show saw an MOU signing ceremony between the Governor of Gyeonggi Province Kim Moon Soo and the Singapore Boating Industry Association (SBIA) President Y P Loke. “[It was] fascinating to visit the show again and see how the industry has grown in Korea since the 2008 show,” says Loke. “I feel there is a cultural affinity between our two countries and the MOU gives us a framework for sharing information and ideas for the development of leisure boating.”
The Korea International Boat Show and the associated Asia Marine Industry Conference revealed a strong focus on maritime safety issues, which have been driven by the recent tragic sinking of the commercial ferry Sewol. This was highlighted at the opening ceremony of the show by the wearing of lifejackets by Governor Kim and the VIP delegation. Governor Kim expressed his condolences to the victims and their families. “Today we have our lifejackets on at this opening ceremony to emphasize the importance of maritime safety and we will continue with additional strategies for next year, to make sure that leisure boating is not considered dangerous but safe.” Kim said.
Korea has been greatly affected by the tragic sinking of the commercial ferry Sewol, which sank with a loss of over 300 passengers, mainly teenagers, on April 16. The sinking resulted in a widespread social and political reaction within South Korea, ranging from criticism of the actions of the captain, crew and the operator of the ferry to the regulators who oversaw its operations. The South Korean Government has also been attacked for its poor disaster response and in addition the media attempts to downplay government culpability.
In a developing leisure boating market such as Korea the image of the sea as a dangerous place exists and is one of the obstacles to overcome by the industry. Public attendance at the four day show was reduced by impressions of the disaster. Despite this, most exhibitors were confident about the boating market and its middle class direction. The Marine Industry Association of South Africa delegation had a strong presence at the show. “We are here with our members for the second year and response has been positive despite the slight reduction in visitor numbers,” says CEO Vanessa Davidson. “One of our members has sold a 76’ tourist catamaran as a result of exhibiting last year.”
The 6th Edition of the Asia Marine Industry Conference, chaired by Tim Coventry ran concurrently with the show. The conference also focused strongly on safety issues with a key note presentation from James Vaughan the International Director of the UK’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
The 8th Korea International Boat Show and Asia Marine Industry Conference will take place again in 2015 from May 28-31 with plans to add an on-water display for larger yachts.
© Mike Derrett for Asia Pacific Boating and China Boating