MORE Hong Kong travellers are tipped to visit South Korea this year, topping by 20 per cent the record number who went to the popular destination in 1993. This year has been designated Visit Korea Year, coinciding with the establishment 600 years ago of Seoul as the capital of the Land of the Morning Calm. ''Visit Korea Year is the country's way of encouraging people to experience and discover the fun of being in Korea,'' said Hur Duk-soo, director of the Korea National Tourism Corporation. The campaign aims to attract 4.5 million tourists from around the world - 1.2 million more than visited South Korea last year, when Hong Kong tourists comprised 4.6 per cent of all foreign visitors. ''In 1993, there were 151,745 visitors from Hong Kong,'' Mr Hur said. ''That was 61 per cent up on the previous year. We expect the increase this year to be about 20 per cent.'' It had never been so easy for Hong Kong travellers to go to Korea, since the visa requirement for Certificate of Identity holders staying fewer than 15 days was dropped last year, he said. Shopping bargains, fantastic natural scenery, the unique 5,000-year-old traditions and culture, and the country's climate were all factors in attracting people from Hong Kong, Mr Hur said. ''In fact, more Hong Kong women than men go on holiday to Korea, so it is clearly a country where people can feel safe,'' he said. In addition to all the usual reasons for visiting South Korea, this year a variety of colourful festivals and exciting events are being staged to make it more interesting. The travel industry is also upgrading facilities and services - the aviation network is being expanded and a new tourist information system is being set up. These improvements will continue after Visit Korea Year ends. Another special promotion this year is a discount coupon programme called Bonus Korea, which has been developed by the tourism corporation. Tourists can use the coupons to obtain substantial discounts at hotels, restaurants, and shops, and on domestic flights and rail tickets. Discounts on room rates at 147 hotels range from 10 per cent to 40 per cent and include breakfast if the stay is three days or longer. Up to 15 per cent off goods is available in participating department stores, duty-free shops and souvenir stores. The biggest savings are available for air travel within the country - Korean Air and Asiana Airlines are offering a discount of 50 per cent for weekday flights and 10 per cent for those on weekends. The booklet of discount coupons, which details all the participating organisations, is available from the KNTC office. Bargains abound in South Korea, where the range and affordability of goods make the country a shopper's paradise. At the top of the list are leather and eel-skin goods, silk, antiques, jewellery, brand-name sports shoes at bargain-basement prices and ginseng. Mr Hur said the famed root with its health-giving properties was not only the best in the world but was much cheaper to buy than in Hong Kong. Its quality was assured because the ginseng industry was run by the government, he said. There are three ginseng factories that are open to tourists. April is the most popular time of year for Hong Kong people to visit Korea, followed by autumn, Mr Hur said. ''Unlike Hong Kong, we have four distinct seasons. In the spring, the countryside is a profusion of flowers - from cherry blossoms to azaleas covering mountains. Summer is not as hot or humid as Hong Kong and is a great time for all kinds of outdoor recreational activities, such as swimming and hiking,'' he said. ''Autumn begins in September and is characterised by dry weather and blue skies, offering a chance to take in some of our country's spectacular scenery and the gorgeous colours of leaves. Winter is cold and dry and is the time for skiing.'' Skiing is becoming more popular among Hong Kong tourists who are keen to enjoy their first encounter with snow. There are several skiing grounds only a few hours' drive from Seoul, and three hours away are the east coast resorts around the Soraksan National Park.