The Naminara Republic (Korean: 나미나라공화국) is a micronation created in 2006 as a culturally-focused tourism booster for the privately-owned island of Nami, which is situated in the Han River, in the South Korean city of Chuncheon.
Nami is a man-made island created in 1944 as a result of the inundation of the Han valley upriver of the Cheongpyeong Dam. It is named for General Nami, a military commander who was executed after being falsely accused of treason during the reign of King Sejo (reigned 1455-1468 CE), the seventh ruler of Korea's Joseon Dynasty. The island is the legendary site of Nami's burial.
The island was purchased in 1965 by Min Byungdo, who in 1966 founded Gyeongchun Tourism Development Inc as a vehicle for developing Nami into a holiday resort and amusement park - purposes it continued to serve until the dawn of the following century. The company's name was changed to Namisum Inc in 2000, and in 2001 Kang Woo Hyon (born 1953) became its new chief executive.
Prior to his appointment Kang's career included work as a designer and children's book author and illustrator. He was also known as a community activist working in support of environmental causes. On assuming control of Nami, Kang began de-emphasising the traditional hedonistic aspects of the resort, while simultaneously placing greater emphasis on the island as an environmental and cultural tourism destination.
Commencing in 2001 Namisum began to invest heavily in environmental, artistic and cultural events. Non-profit organizations such as YMCA and YWCA were invited to use Nami as a focus for recycling campaigns, environment monitoring and eco-tourism-related activities. The company also began supporting a regular calendar of fine art, literary and similar culturally-focused events - often in co-operation with international organizations such as UNICEF and UNESCO.
These activities culminated in the 1 March 2006 declaration of Nami Island's "cultural independence" as the Naminara Republic, under the benign presidential rule of Kang Woo Hyon. The Republic subsequently acquired its own flag, insignia, passports, stamps, coins and telephone cards. All visitors to the island have since been required to purchase a Naminara passport on arrival.
A number of international festivals are now conducted annually on Nami under the auspices of the Republic; they include the International (children's) Book Festival, and "YoPeFe" a festival of traditional dance for teenagers from around the world.
As at 2011, an estimated 1.5 million tourists visit the Naminara Republic annually.
- Naminara Republic website (in Korean and English).
- kwooz.net - the personal web page of Kang Woo Hyon (in Korean and English).