SOUTH Korea will take the stage later this year with its most high-profile tourism drive since the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The Taejon Expo, which will run from August 7 to November 7 this year, is expected to draw about 10 million local and foreign visitors, revitalising the country's ailing tourism industry and heralding the forthcoming Visit Korea Year 1994. More than 112 countries are expected to participate in the international exposition, which is claimed to be the largest science festival in the 20th century. Mr Sohn Woo-hyun, director general of international public affairs of the Taejon International Exposition Organising Committee, said South Korea would be the first developing country to hold an international exposition. He said China would also be participating in the event, as South Korea had lifted its ban on Chinese tourist groups since July 1. With a budget of US$1 billion (HK$7.75 billion), the Taejon Expo would raise South Korea's reputation, boost international trade and have a far-reaching positive impact on the country, Mr Sohn said. The 93-day show would provide 220,000 new jobs over the next five years and speed up the development of Taejon - a city of one million, 150 kilometres south of Seoul - by at least 10 years. South Korea is struggling to boost its tourism industry, and Hongkong is playing an important role in the process. The country has been receiving an increasing number of Hongkong visitors, who have overtaken the Taiwanese as the third largest tourist group visiting South Korea, after Japan and the United States. In the first four months of this year, a total of 54,033 Hongkong people visited South Korea, accounting for 5.8 per cent of the total number of tourists. This represents a significant growth, considering that there were only 94,244 Hongkong visitors last year - 2.9 per cent of the total. Mr Cho Ki-wan, manager of the overseas promotion department at the Korea National Tourism Corporation (KNTC), said Seoul was keen to further strengthen ties with Hongkong in the tourism industry. He said Hongkong had also become an increasingly popular destination for South Koreans travelling abroad. According to Mr Cho, a total of 137,987 South Koreans visited Hongkong last year, a 14 per cent increase on the 1991 figure. In the first four months of this year, 52,848 South Koreans have already visited Hongkong, making the territory the third most popular destination for South Korean travellers, after Japan and the United States. South Korean officials claim that the prospect of tourism is optimistic. Mr Cho said the KNTC expected to see 3.9 million tourists visiting South Korea this year. and tourism revenue was expected to reach US$3.9 billion. ''The 1988 Seoul Olympics was the first turning point for South Korea's tourism. The Years 1993 and 1994 will be the second turning point,'' he said.