GUALO RAI Saipan — The growth in visitor arrivals from Korea is expected to increase this year as Asiana Airlines’ mother company Kumho Asiana acquires the sprawling 36-hole LaoLao Bay Golf Resort as part of plans to tap into Korea’s golf market.

“We are developing the Korean golf market very aggressively ” Kwang Joong Kim general manager for Asiana Airlines’ Saipan regional sales office; told the Journal. “We will include the golf course in the tour package. Korea is a very cold place. Korean golfers prefer warm areas to play.”

Kumho Asiana signed the purchase contract with United Micronesia Development Association on Feb. 18. The UMDA took ownership of the resort from Shimizu Corp. on Feb. 15 2005 reportedly for $8.5 million. The purchase price for the resort was not released by the parties involved however Kim said the total investment including renovation costs could reach $100 million. Renovation plans include the construction of 120 villas at an estimated cost of approximately $500 000 each.

Asiana Airlines flies to Saipan 10 times a week carrying up to 310 passengers on each flight according to Kim. With the acquisition of the golf course Kim said Asiana Airlines will increase its seats from Korea. MBJ