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It is perhaps our picture of the year. And certainly it is one of the most important and symbolic ones taken in duty free’s 60-year history.
The photograph in question comes from Korea – for once neither the qualifer ‘North’ nor ‘South’ is unnecessary. The image is a symbol of a quality tragically lacking on the Korean peninsula for the past 54 years – unity.
It was taken at the opening of the Geumgangsan Duty Free Shop last Monday, an important part of a landmark tourism project that allows South Korean tourists to cross the border and visit what is considered one of the most beautiful areas in a country renowned for natural beauty.
The image shows the celebrations and general mood of euphoria outside the store – run by South Korea’s national tourism body, Korea Tourism Organization (KTO).
The store is 843sq m and sells a wide range of items, importantly from both sides of the border. But such details hardly matter. What is important is that the opening took place at all and that some 350,000 South Korean visitors will cross the border at the demilitarised zone this year and take in the wonder of the Geumgangsan mountains – described evocatively as “12,000 pinnacles with 12,000 miracles”.
Make that 12,001 miracles. Unification of this magnificent but poignantly divided land may have come one important, albeit symbolic, step closer.
The sight of duty free shopping as an image of that unity would have delighted the founder of our industry, Dr Brendan O’Regan, a perpetual proponent of peace, who turned 90 last month.