Free tickets leave Korean F1 hosts red faced

South Korea : A plan by South Korean hosts of their inaugural Grand Prix to boost ticket sales has embarrassed organisers and left fans stranded at the gates.

Hundreds, including school children, were turned away on Saturday when organisers refused to honour daily passes that had been issued by the hosting South Jeolla province free of charge.

"I`m very upset because everyone is saying different things," said Lee Pyong-ho, 63, insisting his party would not have made the trip from the neighbouring city of Mokpo had it not been for the free tickets.

Lee had been given the tickets through the local community office after they were issued without consultations with the race organisers in the hope of boosting interest in the event.

While some fans were enjoying their first taste of Formula One watching drivers take to the oceanfront track in qualifying, others were trying to sort out basic issues such as whether they qualified for disability discounts, how to get food and beverage and finding rest rooms at the still unfinished track.

The hosting province South Jeolla hoped the race, which until last week had been in doubt due to concerns the circuit would not be up to standard, will revitalise the region and boost the country`s image as a business and tourism destination.

"This is hugely embarrassing," an official at the race`s local organiser, Korea Auto Valley Operation, said. "We were not told that the province was about to do this (issue free tickets) until yesterday and we thought they were going to drop the idea."

South Jeolla officials did not return calls seeking comment.

Ticket sales for the 120,000 seats were lagging despite KAVO`s hope to sell up to 90 percent, and heavy rain forecast for Sunday could further hamper turnout for the main race.

Bureau Report

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