Dr So Gilsu with his wife at a rock-carved Buddha at Arab Khan Cheena, Swat. — Dawn
Dr So Gilsu with his wife at a rock-carved Buddha at Arab Khan Cheena, Swat. — Dawn

MINGORA: South Korean scholar and economist Dr So Gilsu on Monday said Pakistan had unique landscape, rich cultural heritage and tremendous natural beauty to attract millions of tourists from across the world, especially Southeast Asia.

“The Koreans have great regard for Pakistan as the Indus flows through it and Mahayana Buddhism spread in Korea from here in the 4th century when Buddhist monk Malananda travelled from Gandhara to South Korea. Also in the 8th century, monk Hyecho travelled to Gandhara for pilgrimage and wrote a travelogue,” Dr So Gilsu told Dawn during a visit to Buddhist sites in Swat valley.

Accompanied by his wife, the South Korean scholar visited the valley following the ancient route made by Korean monk Hyecho, who visited Gandhara and ancient Uddiyana, the present day Swat valley, in 723AD.

He said the Buddhist sites of Pakistan were very important and sacred for Buddhists in the world which was a treasure trove of human cultural heritage.

“Due to the sacredness of Mahayana Buddhist sites, especially the Takht Bhai one, we have built a replica of Gandhara temple of Takht Bhai in Korea and other monumental structures,” he said.

Dr So Gilsu said he visited the whole world but didn’t find a country like Pakistan where there was every blessing from tourism to cultural heritage to archaeological sites to religious places.

“The Indus civilisation and Mahayana Buddhist sites in Pakistan, including Swat valley, have high regard on which Pakistan should be proud. Millions of tourists and pilgrims want to visit it, especially from Korea, for which the government of Pakistan must chalk out an effective tourism plan,” he said.

He said with the cultural heritage sites of ancient times, Pakistan could earn unexpectedly from the cultural heritage tourism.

The scholar said both Pakistan and Korea could make beneficial tourism with the soil along the Indus, especially following the footsteps of Korean monk Hyecho, which could be a great link between the two countries in the 21st century.

He said Pakistani government should take care of Buddhist sites to promote tourism and harmony in the world.

“I am sure many Koreans will come here to follow the old route and visit the archaeological sites. It will be a corridor of Korea and Pakistan such as CPEC,” he said.

He regretted tense relations between Pakistan and India and said if the region became peaceful, then it had the potential to be the biggest tourist market in the world.

“I’m a historian of economy and expect that the peaceful Subcontinent-Union like European Union would bring about an incredibly big market, the world’s first to compete in an international market.

The scholar thanked the Swat administration and tourism secretary for helping him in the visit.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2018