About five months ago, in the middle of a deadly and ferocious blizzard, Alexander and Andrea Campagna answered a knock on the door of their home near Buffalo. Outside were 10 South Korean travelers whose van had become stuck in the snow on their street. The Campagnas welcomed the stranded travelers in, and, in doing so, provided a much-shared story of compassion and good will during a vicious storm just before Christmas.
On Thursday, the Campagnas were in Seoul, the South Korean capital, touring some of the city’s most historic sights, marveling at the painted wood beams buttressing the curved roofs at Gyeongbokgung, a sprawling palace built in the late 14th century. Under a hazy sun, they strolled through Gwanghwamun Square, a plaza that serves as the beating heart of the city’s civic life, where they learned about Korean heroes who walked on this land centuries ago.
They were about a week into a 10-day all-expenses paid tour of the city as guests of the Korea Tourism Organization, to reward their generosity and promote tourism to Korea as well.
“It’s kind of a storybook situation that you could not have scripted,” Mr. Campagna, 40, said, in an interview at a cafe on the Gyeongbokgung grounds.
The government sought to highlight a wide range of Korean industry and culture, and to showcase the country’s natural beauty, said Kim Jang-Sil, the president of the tourism organization. Most of all, he said, he hoped to show the Campagnas the “warmhearted kindness” of the South Korean people.
The Campagnas had been welcomed as heroes. They sat for interviews with local media and filmed a promotional tourism video. They were feted by the Korean government, hosted at the Four Seasons, welcomed at Michelin-recommended restaurants and whisked away on private tours of the city’s attractions. There was a mountain hike, a visit to Buddhist temple, a trek to the Demilitarized Zone that splices the peninsula in two and of course, many delicious meals, including a Korean barbecue feast.
And they’d been reunited with six of the South Korean tourists they’d spontaneously invited into their home that snowy holiday weekend months ago. This time they met at a sun-filled restaurant in a traditional Korean house overlooking Changdeokgung Palace, another grand Joseon dynasty royal home.
Tears were shed as they encountered each other again. Guests and hosts alike, channeled through an interpreter, spoke of the gratitude they felt. They called each other lifelong…
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