The Shameful Reality of Tourism in Korea

The number of tourists to Korea has risen exponentially in recent years, fueled by Hallyu, or the Korean Wave. However, 40% of all tourists choose to not return to Korea. This report investigates the issue, and searches for some solutions.
**Please note that the bolded paragraph titles are not in the original translation and are included only to aid in organization. Also, foreign names written here may be misspelled, as they simply reflect the pronunciation of the transliterated original Korean text.**

Article from MBC:

The Korean tourism industry is growing ostensibly, while hiding its shameful reality.

Anchor: More than 12 million tourists visit Korea every year. The figure itself seems to show huge growth for the tourism industry in Korea.

However, only 40% of those tourists visit Korea again. In other words, 6 out of 10 don’t come back to Korea.

Is Korea treating foreign tourists well enough? Let’s look into the reality of tourism in Korea.

Illegal taxis and overpriced goods for tourists.[0:37]

Journalist: A Chinese tourist arrived at Incheon airport. As soon as he stepped out of the airport, a man approached.

An illegal cab driver: “Myeongdong, Myeongdong. 80,000 won for two people.” He took a van and there wasn’t a meter. It was an illegal call van.

When he arrived at a famous shopping mall, he couldn’t find any price tags on items for sale. He bought a summer jacket in one store.

The shop owner: “This jacket is 120,000 won. The price is so cheap compared to its high quality.” The Chinese man paid about 210,000 won for 3 pieces of clothing.

The journalist tried buying the same clothes in the same shop.

(Journalist: “How much is it?”)
Shop owner: “You can take it for 55,000 won, if you pay cash.” When the journalist bought the same clothes that the Chinese man did, the price was about 100,000 won cheaper.

Namdaemun market at nighttime. The Chinese man chose some knock-off brand name shoes.

The shop owner:“45,000 won. It is a real bargain.”

When a Korean man asked about the price, it was almost half.

The shop owner: “25,000 won. I can give you more of a discount.”

The Myeongdong area is brimming with solicitors. They keep following foreigners even though they say, “no”, or grab their hands or shoulders.

Yuan Siwei, a Chinese tourist: “I visited Korea since I like Hallyu. But despite my expectations, there are many things that disappointed me.”

To supervise illegal activity, a tourist police force was launched in October last year. In only 10 months, more than 900 cases of illegal activity were spotted.

One restaurant received more than 200,000 won from a customer who should have paid only 27,000 won.

Jeffrey, a tourist from Hong Kong: “I paid much more than I should have but the owner didn’t say anything. Later, I realized that I paid more.”

A taxi that turns off the meter when they have foreign customers is the usual subject of surveillance.

A foreign customer: “How much is it? 20,000 won?”

Due to poor treatment of its guests, the rate of repeated visits to Korea has been decreasing as time goes by, and is placed at the bottom among OECD countries.

Besides the low quality of restaurants, shops, and cabs, and there are even more problems.

Tourists also face challenges when looking for decent, affordable accommodations. [2:57]

At tourism’s essential core is a the need for a good night’s rest. This means high quality accommodations and a variety of options. Let’s look inside some accommodations in Korea. Reporter Jeon.

Reporter: I couldn’t find the place with the address information provided.

(Reporter)”Which building is it?”
The guest house owner:”I will come get you.” The place the owner showed me was a semi-basement flat in a terraced house.

Guest house owner: “We have been fully booked these days. There was someone staying in this room this morning.”

There was mold on the wall, a pillow, and a blanket covered with dirt. The owner asks 40,000 won for this room per night.

Another guest house is advertised as a modernized hotel on the internet.

(Reporter) “Has it been registered as a guest house?”
Staff: “Yes.”

It was really a sauna with a small portion illegally renovated. Only a bed could fit into a room so small. A foreign guest who believed the advert on the internet couldn’t hide his disappointment.

Tourist: “I found the cheapest accommodation on a hotel booking site. The place is so bad. There isn’t an air conditioner.”

1 in 5 foreign tourists who visited Korea last year stayed at a guest house. However, among the approximate 1,000 guest houses in Seoul, less than half of them have been zoned as a guest house.

Kyo-jeong Oh, head of the tourist police force: “Every year, the number of public complaints about accommodations has been reaching 100. Most of them are about a guest house. There is a need for more institutional support, such as revisions of the law.”

Demand is high for a unified quality assurance system. A look at Hong Kong. [4:24]

As these problems are worsening, the Tourism Board Organization are adopting a quality assurance system to guarantee the quality of accommodations or shops.

As you can see, there are four different systems, and even shopping malls run their own one. Too many systems are making tourists confused, and they are difficult to manage.

Let’s look at Hong Kong, where the quality warranty system has been running successfully. Reporter Lee.

Reporter: I visited a shop in Wan Chai, Hong Kong. Recently the number of foreign customers of the shop has increased 20% more than usual. The owner explains that the shop has received a QTS(Quality Tourism Services)seal from the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

Alexandra Mount, shop owner:“If people see the QTS sign, they see a shop providing a credible product as well as great service.”

QTS has been applied to shops, restaurants, and even accommodations. To be receive a QTS seal, shops must pass 16 tests for quality and service. Follow up for QTS-qualified shops is strict.

James Tung of the Hong Kong Tourism Organization:“To be registered and maintained as a QTS-qualified shop, a shop must pass many tests including a mystery shopper test.”

Hong Kong was once called “a heaven of imitation products.” After implementing the QTS system, Hong Kong’s image has changed, and income from tourism has increased nearly 4 times. It is thought that QTS, has been running successfully, and has brought the tourist industry of Hong Kong to a higher level.

In Korea, current quality assurance systems are failing. [5:50]

How about Korea? Police investigated a Korean restaurant for Chinese tourists only, qualified as an outstanding restaurant by Tourism Board Organization. In the kitchen they found food that had passed the expiration date, and even leftovers that had been stored in the freezer.

Police: “3 years has passed (since the expiration date), 3 years.”

Since the shop was designated as an outstanding restaurant, there has yet to be any follow-up or management of the situation. The same problem is occurring with accommodations. Among 70% with quality credentials have been reported for not meeting the requirements of a quality guarantee. Organizations awarding these credentials can also not be trusted, as each accommodation, restaurant, and shop are given their credentials from different organizations.

Hong-cheol Shin, student in the department of Hotel and Tourism at Kyung-Hee University: “If the systems for quality assurance in Korea were combined to make one system, it would be great. Then foreigners visiting Korea can develop a sense of trust when making purchases.”

The government has decided to loosen many regulations in order to raise the number of foreign tourists to 20 million by 2017. However, people point out that the government should combine all the quality assurance systems into one, and run it well.

Comments from Naver:


Merchants, don’t cheat foreigners. I know not all of you are like that but put yourselves in their shoes. It doesn’t feel good when we are ripped off while traveling.


I have no idea why foreign tourists visit Korea. Korea has been trying so hard to catch up with western countries, so I don’t think there is much difference..


Ah… well done…


Aigo.. The fish always rots from the head down.


Follow the way Japan treats tourists. The Japanese are kind to tourists, and treat them like family. When I visited a sushi and a noodle restaurant in Tokyo, the staff greeted me so kindly.


From cabs to street vendors, they are like gangsters. We have no right to dispute this, though China or Japan discriminate against Korea, the level of Korea in tourism is at the bottom..yoo yoo


In Korea you are an idiot if you live conscientiously. There are so many successful people who are mean and two-faced. Koreans are frivolous and evil.


Southeast Asia and Europe have amazing natural environments. China and Japan have been preserving their Asian ruins. Who is going to visit Korea again where nothing is preserved except Gyeongbuk Palace in the middle of a bunch of buildings in Seoul?


Those people call Chinese jang-gae. Look at yourselves, you will discriminated against.. eo-hyu


Those people are degrading Korea’s image that was improved thanks to Koreans like Kim Yuna, Kim Su-hyeon, Chu Shin-su. Why are they so short-sighted? Are they running a business only for a short term? I’m ashamed.


Oh my, just shameful. I wouldn’t come if I were a foreigner, too. tsk..


They cheat even those tiny little things? Control what they are doing. Give them a huge fine and close their businesses.


Oh my, this is why Korea is uncivilized.


This is so Korean.


Why do they even come to Korea? There’s nothing to see except Gyeongbuk Palace… People are cheating tourists.

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  • bultak23

    As a western foreign tourist in Korea, I was impressed by the many experts of 침권도 or The Way of the Loogie.

  • linette lee

    Shame shame shame South Korea. I heard the same story from my Hong Kong and China friends. My Philippine friends too complaining about them. South Korea should learn from Hong Kong when come to tourism. Tourists want to buy cheap goods not cheated for their money. They want good service available for them in English.

    • Chucky3176

      So Hong Kong doesn’t have cheating vendors? Wow that’s pretty impressive, if not kind of unbelievable, especially we’re talking about Hong Kong here. I’m going to have to do a bit of research on Hong Kong to see how they have not cheated. What about China? Are all the sales shops there also free of cheating?

      • linette lee

        Well Hong Kong has a lot more international tourists than South Korea no? Higher rate of tourism. If you go to HK 4 out of 10 people there are either tourists or working visa people. There is a reason for that. People keep going back to HK.

        • Chucky3176

          You didn’t answer my question. There are no tourist traps in Hong Kong and China? And Hong Kong is part of China, no?

          • linette lee

            I am sure there are all kind of traps but it seems like tourists love HK. HK is part of China but it’s under HK government and HK gov’t regulation. We don’t share the same laws.

          • Chucky3176

            We are not talking about tourist love for HK. You said shame shame on Korea for cheating on tourists, and that Hong Kong should learn from Hong Kong – strongly hinting that Hong Kong has done something that Korea hasn’t to stamp out the problem in Hong Kong. So what is it that Korea could learn from Hong Kong to stop the cheating?

            Or are you just fucking coming on here (as usual) to gloat and claim the superiority of the Chinese race over the cheating bangzi’s?

            Just a question.

      • linette lee

        Why don’t you put your photo on your avatar. I hate talking to gray or fake avatar. You can always remove it when finishing conversation.

    • Bobby Live

      Hong Kong is awesome and one of my favourite cities in the world to visit, but come on. There are tons of accomodation scams that go on there.
      And two words for you: Chungking Mansions.
      Odds are when booking a room at any guest house in that death trap building you will be put into a room that wasn’t what you payed for or nickel and dimed on bogus extra charges. Also the room will be about 1/5 the size of a room in Korea. In many ways (almost every way) HK is light years ahead of Korea in terms of tourism (and food and excitement and manners), but lets not pretend that it’ s paragon of honesty.

      • linette lee

        I didn’t say HK is perfect, I am just saying certain things Korea can learn from HK. Also it is very very true that those vendors milk the Chinese tourists…Especially the Chinese tourist. If they hear you speak Chinese they will go after you. You don’t know because you are not Chinese. They milked my friends and charged them different price than Koreans. I don’t think that’s common in HK. You meant to tell me HK vendors charged you more than Chinese? You can always go to HK tourist department and file a complain and they will fix that.

        • Chucky3176

          A quick Google research on Hong Kong resulted in these.

          Taxi scams, pickpockets, rickshaw scams, restaurant bills which are ‘mistakes’, to name some of the scams going on.

          If Hong Kong has no cheating stores, how come there are so many complaints by foreigners here?

          Scams galore, and all these complainers are foreigners, not a domestic media.

        • Chucky3176

          Yes you did imply that HK is perfect.

          Yeah, some perfect. This is how you guys treat Filipinos.

          $300 a month salaries for Filipina and Indonesian domestic workers, if they’re lucky. Looks like the Middle East.

          Where’s the Hong Kong media about this? Any Hong Kong organization helping them?

          • linette lee

            I love how foreigners always use domestic workers to attack HK. Meanwhile most of the domestic workers want to go to HK to work. LOL.

          • Chucky3176

            $300 a month in Hong Kong or Saudi Arabia (countries where they’re blatantly getting ripped off and abused), is better than nothing in the Philippines. Desperate people will do desperate things. This is a real racism issue which the Chinese people never talk about and hide. Again, where’s the Hong Kong media’s expose to help improve the situation? Are there any? Probably none. So out of mind, out of site, racism doesn’t exit in Hong Kong.

          • linette lee

            Racism exist everywhere even in USA a country build by immigrants. I am not talking about domestic workers. I was just saying why Korean vendors rip off Chinese tourists like that? I am not the only person saying it. Lots of Chinese are saying that.

          • Bobby Live

            It’s a numbers game. Something like 40% of all tourists to South Korea are Chinese. That’s a pretty big chunk. They are over-represented in the tourist numbers so it follows they will be over represented as victims of scams. Also a lot of Chinese tourists are not very………worldly to put it politely. They are what the Japanese tourists were seen as in the 1980s. Rich and gullible. When i go to buy something in a foreign country I have a vague conception of what the price should be around. If it’s wildly different, I either think they are trying to rip me off or my conceptions are wrong. Either way, I wouldnt buy that thing.
            The “scams” continue becuase they work. If a sudden influx of rich French tourists on package tours, who had never travelled before entered the tourist market I’m sure they would get the same treatment.

            Anyway, as much as I they might annoy me sometimes, Koreans are on the whole pretty honest. Or no more dishonest than any other place I’ve been, including my home country.

          • linette lee

            Well, there was a case a domestic worker got abused and the HK employee got arrested. HK laws do protect domestic workers. And HK do have anti discrimination laws. Do you South Korea have that?

      • Chucky3176

        Listen to this guy. Sounds like what white people complain about Korea. Minus the body odor, the lack of washing/showering, and the $300 a month Filipina domestic helpers. But his other complaints sound like what you guys complain about Korea.

        • linette lee


  • bumfromkorea

    South Korea has a potential to significantly expand its tourism appeal. Its countryside are filled with casually hike-able mountains with great views. There are literally thousands and thousands of islands with rustic charm that will appeal to some. You can’t drive half an hour in that country without running into some form of creek, lake, river, or waterfall.

    The problem is that South Korea wants to be THE destination. Sorry, but the Mongol invasion in the 13th century, Japanese invasion in the 16th century, Japanese occupation of 20th century, and the Korean War destroyed pretty much any significant “WOW” historical factor from Korean tourism. It does not have the “Holy shit!” natural features. Being in a temperate climate means it’s beaches are going to be as exciting as Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey.

    However, Korea has plenty of assets to be THE *alternate* destination, with the right development and marketing. Redevelop the non-highway road network to take advantage of the beautiful countryside. Improve the hiking trails and actually market them. Update the ferry network to promote island tourism. Invest in all those 20+ generation restaurants in the rural area and make it a point of interest for the tourist. For fuck’s sake, 1박2일 already did half the job for the tourism ministry.

    Combine that with the K-pop/Hallryu tourism in Seoul, invest in/regulate the street food culture, and Korea got herself a sizable, profitable source of revenue.

    • Chucky3176

      That would work for people who love nature. I love nature and pretty environments, but that may not be what everyone is into. The urban attractions are still very important. They should promote Korea’s nightlife. Restaurants, pubs, and clubs especially in city centers should be allowed to open all night. Also, many streets, especially places like Hongdae and Itaewon at night are overflowing with garbage on streets. This gives off very bad impressions to visitors and foreign residents alike. They should get rid of the ridiculous no public garbage cans policy and put back the garbage cans everywhere. I think Korean streets were much cleaner up to 1995, when they thought of the bright ideal of getting rid of all the public garbage cans to reduce garbage ending up in the land dumps. Sure, they reduced the garbages in the dumps, but the garbages instead ended up in the streets. They should strengthen punishment for littering, as well as crackdown on people who spill advertisement flyers all over the streets on purpose. And what about those garbage bags that are left in front of buildings for pickups? They blight the streets as well. There’s got to be a better neater way to collect recycling bags rather than putting them out onto streets in open. They make the streets look much uglier. Strength the bylaws and enforcements, and make the punishments hurt. As for architecture, you can’t do too much about the ugly concrete buildings that were already built over the last 50 years, but at least you can clean up the streets. That’s just the beginning, but it’s really a simple step to make, I’m quite shocked why they don’t even attempt it.

  • chris

    many Koreans who go to live in USA suffer worst conditions. you know why? they go and work for Koreans who treat them like crap! and break local laws! true happens so much.. you only have to see that Korea is ranked in the top 3 in the world for people smuggling.. YES FOLKS! SOUTH KOREA! you know all those whores working in USA, CANADA, AUSTRALIA, all those places with Korean whores.. were bought and sold.. this is the race we admire? all your apologetic English teachers who come here and think this is paradise.. you really need to open your eyes!

    • Kguy

      On top of all the troll posts here, another one spewing complete bull shit garbage. This thread is quickly going down the toilet.

      • chris

        its not garbage , its the truth.. sorry if you take offence to FACTS!

        • Chucky3176

          It is garbage. If you’re not going to discuss the Korean tourism problems in a mature manner, at least don’t try to grossly exaggerate things.

          • chris

            exaggerate? come on. I was being soft, the figures are even worse! did you know Koreans are one of the biggest problems to Americans illegal immigration problem? there are like 250..0000 illegal Koreans residing in the usa, and more coming everyday with the intention of breaking the law! not to mention all the other crimes!

          • Chucky3176

            Lol, I dont’ think illegal Koreans are the reason for US crime problems. The US leads the world in intentional homicides. Its streets are unsafe from robberies and drive by shootings. It also leads the world in shooting deaths in schools, not to mention millions upon millions of AIDS cases – all makes living and visiting the US extremely unsafe and unadvisable due to the criminal nature of the Americans. I can also go on and exaggerate and stretch the facts, and spew bull shit like this – exactly what you’re doing.

            But what has that got to do with Korean tourism? Honest question which I don’t even want an answer for. Just go away or shut up.

          • Vasilios81

            True, Koreans have little to do with most violent crime in US and Canada. But Koreans are without a doubt the biggest cheaters, loophole finders, and some of the biggest out and out illegal immigrants in the USA and Canada though. If such behavior happened in Korea, the media would have a field day and they offenders would be labeled criminals and judged and executed on the spot. (figuratively speaking, of course) Big time hypocrites.

          • rich carter

            aren’t you talking about the jews, chinese, and mexicans? I didn’t know that koreans ran all those multi billion conglomerates that cheat and lobby for tax breaks from government. I didn’t know that koreans make up the biggest criminal illegal immigrant groups in both the US (mexicans) and canada (chinese).

    • 금정산

      This isn’t the right place to comment on that issue. While there are points to make about Korean sex workers in the U.S., Canada and Australia, you’re not being fair in the details.

      You’re wrong to call it people smuggling because these women aren’t entering countries in violation of the laws. The women aren’t being “bought and sold”. Debt bondage is sometimes used, but more often the women are autonomous, albeit procured.

      • chris

        of course its people smuggling. They are entering USA from Canada in tunnels! illegally entering, not going through immigration in many cases. or being told they would go to USA and work in restaurants or something but then get beaten and told to have sex! kept in the building and watched all the time!
        many cases US police have raided Korean karaoke clubs and found hundreds of girls in there with no passports! or over stayed visas, etc etc. why do you think the USA forced all koreans to get a tourist visa for so long? because USA was sick and tired of Koreans violating the laws.. it was only lifted a couple years ago. but Koreans are still going there, not leaving! clear immigration violators, Koreans are going into MY COUNTRY! and setting up gang networks, selling drugs, selling women, taking over towns like Korean town, and parts of NYC and trying to make their own! make all signs in Korean, and put signs up saying KOREANS ONLY, dont be so stupid to think, that there are no koreans criminals! you have never been to USA, you dont see the news, and walk around, so many Koreans are gang bangers!
        Korean tourism is pathetic! without the chinese coming here.. as much as Koreans hate them.. no one would be coming here!!!! korea likes to say, ohh we had 10 million visitors last year, as much as many other famous countries.. THEY WERE ALL CHINESE!!!!! yes korea has some good things to check out.. but when it comes to shopping, and foreigns being ripped off, it’s 3rd world countries.. and like I said in my original post.. Korea is still 3rd world thinking in a changing 1st and 2nd world landscape, well in some parts anyway. go out of seoul and its 3rd world landscape.

        • Chucky3176

          Korea was ranked as Tier 1 in the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report – which means human smuggling problems are minimal. The report gives three ranks – tier 1 best, tier 2 bad, tier 3 worst. This is the ranking that the US government gives out to grade all countries in the world for human smuggling problems. Now before you go bad shit on me again, of course Korea’s tier 1 grading doens’t mean there aren’t any problems for Korea, nor am I saying that there are somethings that still need to be improved upon. What you’ve been telling is all bull shit because if Korea is that bad as you say it is, then the US report would have ranked Korea at tier 3 – along with China, Vietnam, and others, who do have a lot of problems with human smugglings and human rights problems THAT DON’T GET REPORTED IN THEIR MEDIAS – unlike the South Korean media. If the problem is as bad as you say it is, then there would not have been a visa free status for South Koreans to enter the US. As a matter of fact, as long as you have a South Korean passport, you can go just about anywhere in the world without VISA’s – that would not be the case, if the world is awashed in illegal Koreans and millions of Korean prostitutes, as you are bull shitting right now.

          You are waging a holy war to tell others not to visit South Korea because it’s a third world country. Then nobody should visit China with all their problems with human rights violations going on there. Nobody should visit Vietnam, Thailand, Mexico, etc. and people should only visit civilized, advanced countries who don’t have any problems like the USA. lol..

          Now I understand your hatred. Your Korean girlfriend left you, or you got screwed by a hagwon, or some Korean beat you up for being an obnoxious drunk, or you simply can’t adapt to Korean culture. But you should pick your battles because you make absolutely no sense right now, other then painting yourself as a complete doofus.

          • chris



            Sex trafficking[edit]

            Despite the illegality of prostitution in the country, sex trafficking is prevalent, encompassing the forced prostitution of more than a million South Korean women in red-light districts like Yong Ju Gol and other areas, not including women from other countries who have been trafficked into South Korea for the purpose of forced prostitution. that the women’s debt never gets paid off. Sex trafficking victims in South Korea are often sold in kissing rooms, massage parlours, and karaoke bars.[2]


            (yes they are koreans)


            (read the last sentence! ) ohh and by the way, the policemens name SHIN and OH are KOREANS!




            I could go on and on and on and on!
            you dont even know the crime statistics in Korea, because the news doesn’t report them, because they dont want to lose face! only when a korean person chops someone up which is often! JESUS! chopped into pieces with knives and saws, so common here.

            NOW, I am not saying there are not more nice koreans than bad. I’m just showing you, there are many Korean criminals! coming to my country and DOING BAD!
            VERY BAD THINGS! we can’t even go into Koreatown because Koreans think they own it. or we risk being shot by some wannabe Korean thug who thinks he is gangsta! foreigners dont come to korea and do that!!!
            but koreans are in Australia, canada, new zealand, thailand, philipines doing their crime!!!
            (like we have never heard that before)
            the reason tourism is low here, is because Koreans who go abroad show to others what Korea is.. and they take notice.. Americans know Koreans in NYC, and LA, TEXAS, they are in the news often for crime.. so Americans think.. wow.. ok I will avoid KOREA!

          • Chucky3176

            Oh so now we’re talking about prostitution industry and crime in South Korea now? So you’ve found the Google search engine, good for you.

            So now we have moved from international human smugglings, to domestic prostitution and crimes now? Wow, you do like to jump around all over the place to show how bad and evil Korean people are. How would you know all what’s reported in Korean news or what’s not reported? You can’t even read a simple Korean alphabet nor can you understand someone who says to you in Korean, “SHUT THE FUCK UP, MORON”.

            If people really think Chinese tourists have it bad in South Korea, try France. lol.. at least you won’t get mugged or get robbed at gun point in Korea.


          • chris

            why do defensive? I am just making points of how Korean people think it’s ok for them to break the law! I should you they have no morality to ripping people off, putting signs up saying NO FOREIGNERS! KOREANS ONLY, come to our countries and think the laws don’t apply to them!
            200.000 illegal Koreans in USA and the government actually thinks a lot higher! than that.koreans involved in crimes, drugs, illegal prostitution, racketeering, gangs, smuggling, etc etc.. WHY! why do koreans have to come to my country and do that!??? WHY??? I dont see Americans, canadians, or British people terrorizing Itaewon or areas and killing people! selling women, forcing women into selling themselves, and selling drugs, and killing each other.. WHY do Koreans have to go abroad and do it in our countries!!! one foreigner does a crime here and its reported all over the news like OHH NO the evil foreigner!! WAKE UP!!! the crimes committed by Koreans overseas in one year outnumbers crimes foreigners have comitted here for 50 years!

          • 금정산

            Got that out of your system? The autumnal colours will develop from next weekend. Perhaps a weekend hiking in the mountains will get rid of that dark cloud above your head.

          • Probotector

            Correct, but that applies to many nationalities, not just Koreans, although your point is sound… indeed, we as ‘foreigners’ are vilified, for the transgressions of a few, while we’re ‘racist’ if we were to think the same, that’s it. Look it’s the 21st century man, if you’re white, everyone hates you, especially in your own country.

      • Chucky3176

        Korea needs to reunite again, become a bigger prosperous powerful united country. Before that happens, the country is too small geographically for others to take it seriously. I am pretty sure that reunification will happen in my lifetime.

  • commander

    The government would do better to channel its efforts into busting the illegal prevalent practice of ripping off tourists than racking their brains to craft a catchy phrase to promote tourism of the nation.

    In addition of rip-offs against visitors, the dearth of accommodation facilities has long been source of grievances of tourists, a problem that is compounded when international events like Asiad, high-profile conferences of world leaders, take place in major cities crowding out visitors out of decent lodging facilities.

    To translate a growing popularity for Korea’s cultural content, called Hallryu, into a magnet for a steady stream of tourists to the nation, the government should act promptly to eradicate illicit deceptive practices with a toughened penalty.

    • Chucky3176

      Did you watch the news report? That’s what the tourism office and the police have been doing. They set up special police to protect tourists last year, and ended up with a total of 900 cases of over charges. The report also goes on about some of the poor conditions of the guest houses. I think the government can do few things more to protect the tourists from scams, but it’s never going to be perfect. Frankly it’s not that bad at all, and they’re demanding unreasonable perfection by taking very few bad examples and applying to the majority. Try Thailand, China, Hong Kong – all hubs of tourist scams far worse than Korea, yet those countries don’t have problems with attracting tourists. I think the reason why only 40% tourists return is what lot of other people said, it’s because Korea doesn’t have clear attractive merit. It doesn’t have the tropical weather for beaches, the restaurants suck, and no historical wow factor. This is so much panicking hype over nothing.

      • commander

        You may be right. Some may say Korea may not have any distinctive attractiveness that lures foreign tourists to it, and petty offenses targeting tourists may not be the primary factor in the failure to attract tourists and vacationers from other countries.

        But that doesn’t mean that the crackdown on wrong practice is not worthwhile.

        On the contrary, the nation needs to build a reputation that Korea is very hospital to foreign visitors–an attempt that I think will help counteract the reluctance of foreigners to choose tourist destinations, thus will spur the growth of its tourism industry.

  • Smnk

    I had a good experience when I visited Seoul and I truly enjoyed it. I
    would go back again, but I have to admit that I’m not interested that
    much in shopping as well as experiences. I’d like to see Nanta and
    Sachoom (theater performances) and visit Busan and Daegu.

  • coreadonowrong

    say what you like, but this chucky guy sure is dedicated in defending/apologising for korean shortcomings.

  • doraemon

    Do something to that rediculous agreesive booing against Japanese athelete team before trying to improve tourism.

  • William

    The majority of tourist who come to South Korea are either Chinese or Japanese., and for a lot of Chinese and Japanese people, South Korea can be disappointing for two reasons 1) Lack of anything to see 2) Food. Compared to China or Japan,, there aren’t a lot of really old historical monuments – nothing like the Forbidden City or the Great Wall. As for the food, most Japanese and Chinese can’t take spicy food. For the Japanese its not a problem, because there are a good number of Japanese restaurants in Korea, For Chinese tourist, South Korea is the worst place in Asia for Chinese food, because of a very small Chinese population. Even Even, Laos has better Chinese food than Seoul..

    For a lot of tourist from the West or even from China, there isn;’t any must sees. Most people in the neighboring countries don’t know of any landmarks in South Korea, let alone Westerners. Most Malaysian or Singaporeans can say ” I want to visit Thailand to see the Emerald Buddha, this or that. If you ask Chinese or Japanese people who never been to Korea, if they can think of any famous Korean landmarks, they can’t think of any.

    AS for learning from Hong Kong. Despite the success of the Korean Wave, in Anglophere it still has a long way to catch up with the Hong Kong in terms of recognition in the West. Psy is no Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee. Hong Kong is hybrid city, where the East meets the West. They were ruled by Westerners for over 150 years Most of hte Chiense immigrants in teh West are Cantonese, so even the sound of Cantonese is familiar to most people in places like Canada, US or Britain.

    • Well hold on a minute

      I don’t think Chinese tourists put that much importance on seeing historic monuments of other Asian countries, because they think everything in Asia is a theft of Chinese culture and history. Chinese have a very hard time understanding or refuse to accept that other Asians also have their own sets of culture and history. It’s a byproduct of their traditional view that they are on top of Asia, and everyone else at the bottom. But Chinese do love wacky things that nobody else can ever think of. For instance, when they think of Korea, they think of Ehwa Women’s University, according to Hong Kong newspaper.

      And lest you think ripping of Chinese tourists is a Korea-only phenomenon, think again. The Economist says Chinese tourists are an easy pickings for everyone.

      “IT’S HARD being a Chinese tourist. Reviled for bad behaviour one day and ripped off by everyone from taxi drivers to pickpockets the next, China’s newly minted travelling classes are having a tough year.”

      • cantonizi

        China don’t want Korea in the country so Korea was kicked out of the union long ago before Indochina was also kicked out.

    • Kguy

      lol, very few Chinese in Korea? My god, I see them everywhere I go in Korea, with some parts of the cities turning into entire Chinatowns. How many Chinese should there be, before it’s considered “very small Chinese population”? And if you wanted only Chinese food, then why not stay in China?

      • Kguy

        I mean,

        How many Chinese should there be, before it’s stopped being considered as having “very small Chinese population”?

      • william

        South Korea’s Chinese population is in fact small. If you actually look at long term residents who are Han Chinese.. Those ethnic Koreans from China who happen to speak Chinese, are not Han Chinese. There are ALOT of those “Chinese” in Korea. But actual Han Chinese outside of students and short term visitors not as many as you think.

        There are about 150,000 ethnic Han Chinese in South Korea. That is not a lot, relative to Japan or SEA/. In East and SEA, South Korea has the smallest number of ethnic Han Chinese outside of North Korea. Even Laos has more Han Chinese.. Considering its proximity, there are just not a lot of Chinese people in South Kora..

        • Kguy

          Those wiki stats are old stats from maybe ten years ago. There are 250,000 to 300,000 Han Chinese now, since the visa rules only favoring ethnic Koreans from China were eased. The numbers are increasing every year.

          Plus, the Korean-Chinese who make up around 700,000 are Chinese nationals (therefore they are Chinese too). Since most of them were born in China, they’re about 2/3 culturally Chinese (all of them speak and write Mandarin), and only about 1/3 culturally Korean (they speak and write Korean, while some don’t). And if you ask them whether they’re Chinese or Korean, most of them will reply they are “Chinese”. So they’re Korean by blood but by nationality and culturally, they are Chinese.

          • kguy

            Also a huge number of those “ethnic Koreans” are either mixed (Korean/Han Chinese) ethnics, or they don’t have a drop of Korean blood in them because they came with false documents. To get special ethnic Korean Visa’s, you have to prove that you’re an ethnic Korean. But in China, you can get any forged documents of your choosing. Some estimates put up to third of the “Korean-Chinese”, as Han Chinese with falsified papers who wanted to enter Korea to illegally work.

          • cantonizi

            A few thousand Chinese in Korea is bad wait until you get blacks from Afrika and the US by the 100s of thousands like there are in Canton, China.
            You may have to move to Canada, but Canada has too many blacks and Indians too.

  • pk@fire

    Japanese places actually treat you better when you don’t speak in Japanese to them. That’s the extent of the hospitality they show you.

  • richard roma

    There’s not any one single reason why Korea is a lame tourist attraction; it’s a combination of factors. China has heavy pollution and France has standoffish locals, but they have huge upsides as well – Korea doesn’t have any real redeeming value to balance it out. Sure, it has a few nice scenic areas, but so does South Dakota.

    Korean cities are soulless eyesores. Every one looks exactly the same; grey concrete boxes covered in ugly neon signs. The streets smell like shit and are full of insects. You might as well take a tour of America’s strip mall suburbs. People aren’t made of money (or time), why would they spend either here when they could go to Japan, Thailand, Europe, etc…?

  • Zappa Frank

    something similar happen in Italy. Especially in Rome they were famous for making tourists pay more, sometimes a lot more, than locals. There were (or are still) differences even among Italians for prices.

  • Hazey

    I think if you aren’t White or East Asian you could have a difficult time. And that’s why South Korea is going to suffer long term. Right now they get a lot from Chinese, The US and Europeans. China could change pretty soon and the other two are increasingly multi-cultural and impacted by the GFC.

    I remember being in Insadong and a older guy really grilling an South American (he spoke spanish and looked like from Guatemala or something) and African American about why they were here. The poor guys had chosen stuff to buy and were deliberately ignored. The African American left and waited outside and the South American guy stayed after 10 minutes the guy went to the counter. No smile, nothing. He overcharged the guy apparently and the South American guy showed him the price on something and what he was charged and that resulted in him being grumbled at in Korean. Finally the guy left not happy and ripped off. The ajjeoshi then told clearly to some Europeans “Always they are trouble!”

    That sums up why Korea has problems. This is Insadong a tourist hub and they do this! I also remember my Indian friend being told by a drunk business man “you … disgusting shit!” on Line 2 Subway. he only stayed in Korea for 5 days on a stop over to japan (he studies there) and received 3 incidents like this while traveling Seoul.

    i think it is a bit of a problem. Sure it can be hit and miss. But for some people it is pretty miss.

  • jon9521

    I stayed in a 5 star hotel in Seoul. However we checked out early as we noticed marks all over head board and bed frame and furniture. Looks like the previous occupant had a great time. Never got cleaned properly even after we complained.

  • jonny

    i’ve been to south korea twice. it was alright. there really isn’t a whole lot to see once you’ve been there once. i don’t mind visiting korean whores in Canada though.

  • BostonBiBimBap

    China has 1.4 billion people……. come back or not… I think Korea will have Chinese tourist coming in no matter what if they like it or not………..

    • Xman2014

      Over six million Chinese will have visited South Korea this year, which is a 53% rise over last year’s number. They keep coming, despite this supposed grave problem (lol). You know what? Most other Asian countries, most of the world in fact, have much more problems with dishonesty and crime problems that Korea lacks. So let’s put things into perspective here, shall we? And in couple of years, the number of Chinese tourists are going to even explode once S.Korea’s plan to turn the entire city just off of Seoul, into another free gambling zone that will be designed to rival Macau and Las Vegas. It’s called the Paradise City, and it will be partnered with Las Vegas companies, will open in 2017. Everyone knows how much Chinese like to gamble.

  • pickaname

    I would like to visit Korea again.
    One thing really impress me is when I ask for direction to our hotel at Jeju airport, there is a girl that really excited to help us, she is make sure we are get on the bus before back to what she is doing. Arrived to the exact stop she had told us and found out that she might be given us the wrong direction because base on our note there should be certain building to be seen from our hotel. We get into a convenience store but the guys not really helpful (we cannot expect everyone is in a good mood right or may be he cannot speak english), then we ask an old man which can speak little english which he instantly call the hotel for us and grab a taxi for us. Right before we get into the taxi, the girl from the airport approach us with teary eyes, she explain that she realised given us the wrong direction and afraid that we are lost because of her mistake. She ask the taxi driver how much the taxi fare to our hotel and insist to pay the taxi driver which end up we force her to take the money back. She also reassure the taxi driver to drive us to the hotel and the taxi fare is what the taxi driver predicted before (I think he predicted around 5000won). The taxi driver stop us at a spot that not in front of our hotel but it quite near our hotel because we can see places mentioned in our note (the taxi fare is shown 5000won as he predicted). We explain our hotel position that he is drop us at the wrong spot (it is quite hard because he is not good at english) then we told him it is fine we can stop here but he insist to get it right and drop us off right at the hotel (more explanation to him and show him the address). Arrived at our hotel the taxi fare is more than 5000w as predicted (I think around 6000won) but he only charge us 5000won as his promise to the girl, it wasn’t his fault it is just miscommunication but he is kind enough to honour his promise.
    There are many good memories there.

    I don’t think there is a perfect place to visit, there must be something positive and negative. There are so many people in a country, we cannot expect everyone is nice. We should look at the good side.

    Base on experience, when you visit a small town the people is more friendly than in big city and this applies to western and eastern country.

  • Banana

    I am a Canadian who lived in Korea for 2 years and traveled to many big and small cities in Korea. I don’t think anyone has ever lied to me about prices because I found things to cost about the same across the country (with markups in places in Myeongdong, just like there would be in any other big city shopping area). In fact, I had restaurant owners and small shops give me little gifts for free.

    I also admire that Korean airports do not charge too much for basic things like snacks and water, unlike everywhere else in the world. When I traveled to other parts of Asia, I always compared them to Korea, and Korea was always #1 in service, honesty, and helpfulness.

  • tigerone11

    A tourist want to see the whole World , so by nature he is not coming back. I have a different expierence regading price etc I often get a cheaper price than the natives

  • kucing

    Visit Indonesia all!!! There are so many beautiful natural places and nature views , friendly people, cheaper and delicious food, multiculture and so much fun here :D

  • Jang Hae Joo

    Well, I don’t think you can find a country without any racists. You’ll definitely encounter one on your own country, the one you visited, or another country you’re currently in. Maybe not now but you’ll definitely meet those racists and those money-cheating opportunists. No one should generalize the whole country just because of the foreigners’ misfortune. Lack of in-depth knowledge about the do’s and don’ts about the country you’re visiting will render you prone to cheaters who’ll pull out tons of money outta ya. Remember, don’t be a foreigner. Be a local. And that’s a basic rule for visitors. Keep travelling. It’s fun.

  • hello123

    i’m glad when i was in korea i was with my korean friends all the time. never got ripped off

  • UrbanChosunNinja

    Korea Tourism ( Many Room for improvements).

  • Sish

    This article is not true. I’ve been in Korea for more than 20 times and always people try to help foreigners and most of places such museum and aquarium or parks are cheaper for foreigners than domestic people (Korean) if you are a foreign student in korea then you’ll get a lot of free offers by government or Korean tourism association. I’ve never seen any safest country such Korea.

  • Bullman

    Complaints You May Have/Had While Traveling/Working/Living in Korea
    (Limited to Korean products and services)

    Please post them on:

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  • sam

    We would need to know tourist ‘retention’ rates for other countries to know if 40% is good or bad. Anyway a reason for people not coming back is that Korea is xenophobic and hostile, and in particular looks down on its main source of tourists – other Asian countries.

  • Cal Vin

    The only thing I dislike is the hallyu movement. It’s brainwashing poor South East Asians and loner white kids from North America and Europe who start fantasizing that Korea is some magical romantic nation just like they see in the kdramas and kpop videos. Just go on facebook and find the millions of non-Koreans trying to speak Korean, posting pictures like they are a korean celebrity and most SE Asian are actually now changing their names adding a Korean name to it. For example some filipino girl might have the name: Maria Villaneuva. But now her name is Maria Sooyoung Villaneuva. There’s thousands upon thousands of these types of people. But what they don’t know is that Korea was a poorer and dirtier country than there’s only 60 years ago. If you come to Korea having high standards expecting it to be your kdrama fantasies come true, wake the puck up you immature children. Korea is a very harsh place to live. Life is hard here. Many people are poor and many people live in small dingy one rooms infested with mold. It’s a common thing. Koreans love Korea but brainwashed foreigners who come to Korea thinking they will live out their kdrama and kpop fantasies are in for a rude awakening. But a growing number of Koreans themselves are becoming sucked into and brainwashed by their own hallyu movement lol. Anyways, Korea needs to balance well how to attract tourists while keeping out infestations of chinese, se asians, south asians, muslims, and the dysfunctional white people who failed in their homelands and look to settle in asia where they are famous and popularized.

    • Katelin

      Don’t lie so much. I visited Korea last year and it was a fantastic place. Much better than my own shitty country. I’m determined to get married to a Korean man and I’m going to immigrate there.

  • KoreanPeninsula

    You will enjoy Korea. I would say ” System” can be improved and be better.

  • anonanon

    If you learn even basic Korean, yo can haggle the price. You go to another country not bothering to learn anything about it, why should they try to accommodate you?

    Not getting some luxury housing? That’s how most Korean people live. They work all damn day to live in small housing, borrowing huge loans for deposits, and you want to walk in, don’t know any Korean, plan to stay for like three days, and get some nice ass luxury place for cheap. How entitled.

    Doesn’t fit your expectations? It’s a fucking country with real people living in it. It’s not some magical kpop land. Like Japan isn’t anime. Sorry a country isn’t your fantasy but you should get the fuck over it.

    No foreigners allowed? Because you people cause disturbances all the time. ESL “teachers” and military idiots always cause problems. Chinese tourists leave messes like a tornado came threw. And you never know the language, why bother with you? You’ll notice that foreign women tend to still be allowed in, because they aren’t nearly as retarded and women always tend to make the effort to learn at least the basics. There’s exceptions, but how are the owners supposed to test that every time? It’s risky.

    Theres jerks everywhere. But jerks tend to be shitty people all around to everyone. Plenty of Korean people are really nice. Some are somewhat ignorant but curious and don’t know, but you are in their country, why should they do research on everything about you when you come for a vacation? Why bother? If every Korean is mean to you, you are just an asshole, mystery solved.

    I’ve never had a taxi overcharge me, been refused service or entry, or kicked out anywhere. I’ve been in China and they tried to spike the price but not here, and if they do I can easily speak Korean and haggle or walk away. Nobody pulls at me to buy anything. Nobody spits at me or makes rude remarks. Because I have a good attitude. Bad housing? Shit, do you fucking research. If it seems suspicious move on to the next thing, and stop having expectations and entitlement through the roof.

    Korea like any country has it’s pros and cons but it’s so rich seeing how much people expect Korea to do for them, when they don’t really want most of you there to begin with, because you’re all assholes. Korea will improve with time, but it’s honestly not a bad place as it is. I’d say way more pros than cons, for a country that had to climb it’s way up from poverty with help and perseverance and many sacrifices.

    Honestly I’m glad people decide to leave in the end, it’s better than you keep coming or living here for ten years, not speaking a word, and bitching 24/7. I fucking love living here.

  • anonanon

    chinese in korea are completely fucking annoying. so who cares.

  • SunshineSunshineSunshine

    I had a korean neighbour, a 60 year old female. at 6 AM every morning she was “processing” meat on the kitchen counter with a hammer so loudly, the entire apartment block brick building was shaking waking everyone up. I suspect she was eating dogs and cats yet I am not sure where she got that kind of meat from in the US. She became very rude, throwing huge furniture at my wall for talking quietly to my guests or for playing music at a very moderate sound. I finally gave up and quit. She later was evicted by the owner after the sent yet another tenant away.

    On a train ride in a big city USA a korean guy was sitting in front of me across the isle. He was staring at me very aggressively as if inviting to a fight. I wasn’t interested, but I felt uncomfortable. I know that EXTREMELY RUDE and SELFISH korean culture has spread to other countries, such as Russia and that shows.

    Trust me, I will not be visiting Korea or talking to koreans ever. And buying korean products only if there is no other choice and will never buy a SAMSUNG ever again.

    PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE is another problem with korean electronics..

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