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South Korea to get its first nude beach?

By Frances Cha, CNN
October 24, 2013 -- Updated 0552 GMT (1352 HKT)
Officials haven't decided which beach will be sans-clothes. In this photo: Yonghwa Beach in Gangwon Province.
Officials haven't decided which beach will be sans-clothes. In this photo: Yonghwa Beach in Gangwon Province.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gangwon Province eyes clothes-free options in attempt to attract tourists
  • Plans for nude beaches in South Korea have been discussed since 2005
  • Officials are mulling a possible foreigner-only trial run

(CNN) -- Cold water and nude beaches don't necessarily mix well.

Add to the equation a very conservative society and the idea of a nude beach seems rather ambitious, if not impossible.

In a surprisingly creative tourism push, officials in north east Gangwon Province are aiming to set up South Korea's first nude beach, with the first clothes to be shed in 2017.

It's an effort to boost tourism to the peninsula's east coast beaches, which lose out every year to the west coast in luring summer visitors from the capital Seoul.

Read: Naked, wet, free: 21 sexy skinny dips

Gangwon Province has about a month and a half of beach season each summer.
Gangwon Province has about a month and a half of beach season each summer.

Although the east coast has more beautiful, sandy beaches, the water tends to be colder, the season shorter and the distance from Seoul is greater than the beaches to the west.

The massively popular annual mud festival is also held on the west coast.

Skinny dip-friendly

"This is part of our plans to create beaches with specific purpose, like a beach for families, a beach for couples, a beach for pets, and yes, a nude beach," said an official from the municipality's Pan-East Sea Division at a seminar on Tuesday, according to the Korea Times.

Calls by CNN to officials were not answered on Thursday.

Somewhat surprisingly, this is not the first time the subject has been broached by government officials.

And in the past it's the public that's shuttered the idea.

Gangwon Province tried to launch a female-only nude beach in 2005, while Gangneung City also deliberated, but ultimately scrapped, a nude beach idea due to public outcry. The same happened to a Jeju Island proposal in 2009.

Read: World's 100 best beaches

Which beach?

Officials have not yet decided which beach may be the first to go nude. They are also deliberating over a trial operation for foreigners only.

The premise is foreigners will be much more comfortable with the concept than locals.

"Koreans actually love nude beaches when they're traveling abroad, but the problem with having one within Korea is the fact that Korean society is so interconnected," Seoul-based travel reporter Chun Kyoung-woo told CNN.

"They won't be able to comfortably go to a nude beach due to the thought that people they know will find out about it quite easily."

That threat is reinforced given the country's has second-highest smartphone penetration rate in the world (73%, just behind United Arab Emirates' 73.8%) and a staggering 82.7% Internet penetration rate.

Early reaction to the concept was skeptical.

Twitter user @amudoan: "Doubtful that people will actually go. And even if they do, it'll be 99.99% guys." @KR_Nanoha tweeted "why don't they just call it a men's sauna?" (Both comments translated here into English).

Read: 40 most beautiful places in South Korea

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