South Korea will make a special effort to lure tourists from its closer neighbors, China and Japan, in the new year, hoping the visitor tally to the nation to reach 8.5 million, Yonhap News reported Saturday.

The period starting from this year to 2012 is designated as “Visit Korea” years, intended to attract more foreign tourists as part of efforts to bolster the service industry.

The government also designated Hallyu (Korean Wave) star Bae Yong-jun as the Promotional Ambassador, who is widely popular in Japan and China.

Last year, around 7 million foreigners toured South Korea, according to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korea Tourism Corp.