SEOUL, July 7 (Yonhap) -- People dreaming of vacationing at a secluded beach this summer, away from coronavirus-prone crowded places, will have fewer destinations to choose from, as a growing number of villages on the East Sea are opting to close summer beaches for antivirus reasons.
At least 11 seaside villages in Gangneung, a city on the east coast about 240 kilometers east of Seoul, and nearby Samcheok have decided not to open their beaches to summer vacationers this year for fears of a possible invasion of the coronavirus, according to municipal officials in Gangneung on Tuesday.
As the coronavirus outbreak has of late shown signs of spreading nationwide again, more villages are expected to close summer beaches this year, the officials said.
A Gangneung village renowned for its picturesque white sandy beach and blue sea is one of the city's five small-village beaches that will remain closed this year to prevent COVID-19. The village has never suspended the operation of its beach.
"Village residents recently held a meeting and decided not to open our beach to vacationers this year due to fears of coronavirus infections," said a village resident, asking that his name and the name of his village be withheld.
"We'll skip this summer because the entire village may be completely devastated by any single transmission of the virus. If that happens, our village's elderly people will be put in particular danger. We'll open our beach normally from next year," the resident said.
Excluding the five village-run beaches, Gangneung's 15 other beaches will open for the summer holiday season on July 17, the municipal officials said, adding that coronavirus fear is running deep among seaside villagers.
In Samcheok, a Gangwon Province city just south of Gangneung, six villages have decided to close their beaches this summer.
As a result, the number of east coast beaches in Gangwon Province opening for the summer holiday season will decrease 12 percent from 92 last year to 81 this year, the officials said.
Beaches in Sokcho, Samcheok, Goseong and Yangyang will open on Friday, while the opening date for beaches in Donghae is set for July 15, they added.
Elsewhere in South Korea, public beaches formally opened for the summer holiday season last Wednesday, with beachgoers obliged to comply with strict disinfection and social distancing rules to curb the coronavirus.
Recommended guidelines for beaches and visitors include a two-meter distance between parasols and tents, restrictions on the use of shower booths, avoiding physical contact and wearing a face mask when not in the water.
A larger number of vacationers than in the past are expected to visit beaches across the country this summer, as overseas travel is virtually impossible due to the spread of the coronavirus.