Ticket sales for next year’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea have been notably slow, hitting less than 7% of their target for local sales earlier this month, presumably due to tensions with their neighboring country to the North. Last week, France was the first participating nation to threaten to skip the games due to concerns over nuclear tests by North Korea. Today, the Korea Federation of Banks announced it would purchase 1 billion won worth of tickets to make up for poor sales from local and abroad fans alike.
According to Reuters, just under 30% of the 1.07 million ticket target had been reached as of Thursday. The PyeongChang Winter Olympics had sold 315,000 tickets, with about 60% of sales coming from overseas fans. Organizers expected 750,000 tickets in domestic sale only; 124,000 have been sold so far.
“Buying tickets was considered one of the ways to support the Olympic Games considering the recent slow ticket sales,” federation official Shon Kyung-ae told Reuters. “We have decided to buy 1 billion won worth of tickets.”
A statement from the federation explained their decision: “As part of our social responsibility efforts, the federation has decided to support the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games, which will be an opportunity to improve the country’s global image.”
Olympics organizers had aimed to raise 174.6 billion won ($153.66 million) from ticket sales, in addition to the revenue they’d hoped local businesses would gain from food, lodging and tourism. The South Korean tourism industry has suffered the loss of Chinese visitors recently in the wake of Beijing’s ban on group tours to the South over the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system.
The city of PyeongChang is just 50 miles from the South/North’s heavily armed border, but the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, assured fans that there is “no reason for any immediate concern” back in August.
“The political issues are having an impact on ticket sales,” Eom Chan-wang, director general of marketing bureau at POCOG, told Reuters in a recent interview. “South Koreans don’t take the North Korean matter seriously, unlike those who live overseas. Foreigners are concerned South Korea is a dangerous place, but it is very peaceful here.”
The Winter Olympic Games will take place in PyeongChang on February 9-25, 2018.