Tourism in South Korea
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Tourism in South Korea refers to the tourist industry in the Republic of Korea. In 2012, 11.1 million foreign tourists visited South Korea, making it the 20th most visited country in the world, and the 6th most visited in Asia. Most non-Korean tourists come from other parts of East Asia such as Japan, China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. The recent popularity of Korean popular culture, often known as the "Korean Wave", in these countries has increased tourist arrivals. Seoul is the principal tourist destination for visitors; popular tourist destinations outside of Seoul include the major coastal city of Busan, the Seorak-san national park, the historic city of Gyeongju and subtropical Jeju Island. Traveling to North Korea is not normally possible without a special permission, but in recent years organized group tours have allowed groups of South Korean citizens to visit Mount Kumgang.
Korean tourism industry
The majority of the South Korean tourist industry is supported by domestic tourism. Thanks to the country's extensive network of trains and buses, most of the country lies within a day's round trip of any major city. International tourists come primarily from nearby countries in Asia. Japan, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan together account for roughly 75% of the total number of international tourists. In addition, the Korean Wave has brought increasing numbers of tourists from Southeast Asia and India. The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) is targeting 100,000 arrivals from India in 2013.
Travel destinations of Korean tourists
The number of Korean domestic tourists has increased since 2010. The number of people who participated in domestic travel (which includes one-day trips) was about 238.3 million (in 2015). It increased by 4.9% compared to 2014 (227.1 million). In 2014, Korean's domestic tourism expenditure was ₩14.4 trillion.
Also, Korean oversea tourists keep increasing since 2010. From 2012 to 2014, the number of people travelling overseas has risen by about 8.2% on average. In 2014, number of Korean oversea tourists was about 16.1 million. And Korean oversea tourism expenditure was $19,469.9 million.
In the past, South Koreans were not likely to travel overseas, due to the Korean War and subsequent economic difficulties, as well as government restrictions on overseas travel, with passports issued only for a narrow range of reasons, such as traveling abroad on government businesses, for technical training, and so on. Since the 1960s, overseas travel restrictions and regulations have been continuously reviewed to prevent foreign currency waste from traveling abroad. However, during the 1980s, the liberalization of international travel has begun to take place in catering to the globalization of the South Korea society. Since then, South Koreans have been able to travel freely abroad.
The busy lifestyle of modern South Koreans, leading to difficulties in mediating vacations with family or friends, and the increase in one-person households, have contributed to the growing number of South Koreans traveling alone. Therefore, the popularity of destinations close to South Korea, where South Koreans can go for short vacations alone, are increasing. According to the results of a plane ticket analysis in 2016, the top foreign destination for South Koreans is Osaka, followed by Bangkok and Tokyo. Moreover, Osaka, Tokyo, and Shanghai have high re-visit rates for South Koreans. However European destinations such as London, Paris, and Rome have fallen in re-visit rating, due to geographical distances, expensive air fares and high costs.
International tourists typically enter the country through Incheon International Airport, near Seoul, which was found to be the world's best airport in 2006. Also international airports in Busan and Jeju are frequently used.
In 2013, travel and tourism (domestic and international) directly contributed KRW26.7 trillion to South Korean GDP and directly supported 617,500 jobs in the country.
In 2018, travel and tourism based on international expenditure directly contributed KRW 16.7 trillion to the South Korean GDP and directly supported 1.4 million jobs, this represented 5.3% of the total employment in the country (OECD).
In 2019, the contribution of travel and tourism to the Korean GDP was up 4.2% of the total economy (KRW 81.4 billion). Which accounted for 4.8% of total employment (1.3%). The impact of international visitors accounted for KRW 26.5 billion (World Travel and Tourism Council).
Spending habits include Leisure spending 82% vs. Business spending 18% Domestic spending 55% vs. International spending 45%
According to the numbers in the graph, leisure spending is 64% higher than business spending while domestic spending is only 10% higher than international spending.
Visitors arriving to South Korea for tourism by nationality:
|Year||Number of international visitor
arriving in S. Korea
|% change from|
China has been South Korea's largest tourism source for years. In 2016, visitors from China made up 46.8% of tourists in South Korea. However China imposed the group tour ban after the US military started to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea. From April 2017, Chinese tourists plummeted by more than 60% compared to the previous year. In recent years, the South Korean tourism industry has made it a long term goal to reduce dependency on Chinese tourists.
Since Lee Myung-bak's visit to the Liancourt Rocks and his demand for an apology from the Emperor of Japan over Japanese colonialism in Korea in 2012, the Japanese public's image of South Korea deteriorated significantly. Japanese tourists to South Korea declined by half from 3.5 million in 2012 to 1.8 million in 2015, while South Korean tourists to Japan doubled from 2 million in 2012 to 4 million in 2015.
|Year||Number of domestic tourist per year|
Destination in Korea
|Administrative divisions||Number of tourist|
|North Chungcheong Province||5,141,110|
|South Chungcheong Province||9,944,616|
|North Jeolla Province||6,760,830|
|South Jeolla Province||8,063,538|
|North Gyeongsang Province||8,822,201|
|South Gyeongsang Province||8,479,567|
|Jeju Special Self-governing Province||4,732,494|
|Year||Number of overseas trip tourist|
|Destination||Number of Korean exit passenger|
Apart from Jeju island, there are many smaller islands. Excursion ferries are quite common along the south and west coasts and also to Ulleung-do Island, off the east coast. Limited tourism mainly by South Koreans to the Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo) has grown in recent years as a result of the political status of the rocks.
Major tourist destinations
The population of Seoul is 9,981,673 and it's the largest city in South Korea. As many people gather, there are many cultural spaces such as festivals, performances, shopping places, and tourist attractions in Seoul.
To foreigners, Seoul is an attractive place because traditional Korean culture and modern culture co-exists.
In addition, people in South Korea come to Seoul to enjoy various cultural activities. Due to the metropolitan area centralization of the cultural infrastructure, there is a cultural gap between Seoul and other regions. According to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, 36.4 percent of the total cultural infrastructure such as public library, museum, and art galleries are concentrated in Seoul. Therefore, many people in South Korea travel to Seoul.
- Gyeongbokgung Palace
- Changdeokgung Palace
- Deoksugung Palace
- Gwanghwamun Square
- Fortress Wall of Seoul
- 63 Building
- N Seoul Tower
- Bukchon Hanok Village
- War Memorial of Korea
- Jogyesa Temple
- National Museum of Korea
Busan is the second largest city in South Korea. It is located in the southeastern coast in Korea, so Busan has abundant tourist attractions such as beach and hot spring. People in South Korea visit beaches in Busan in hot summer. Also, there are various festivals in Busan. 11 festivals are held annually, including local festivals and art events. Busan sea festival is held every August and Busan International Film Festival is held every October. Jagalchi Cultural Festival is developed into a representative cultural tourism festival in Korea. Because of these various festivals and places, many people travel to Busan. Also, the influence of Social Network Service made Busan a popular tourist attraction. The official Facebook of the Busan Culture and Tourism Ministry and official blog sites promote the tourist attractions in Busan.
- Haeundae Beach
- Beomeosa Temple
- Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
- Geumjeongsanseong Fortress
- Dongnaeeupseong Fortress
- Dongnae-hyangyo Confucian Academy
- Chungnyeolsa Shrine
- Gukje Market
- Palgongsan Mountain
- Donghwasa Temple
- Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in Daegu
- Dalseong Park
- Gyeongsang-gamyeong Park
- Old House of Lee Sang-hwa
- Daegu-hyanggyo Confucian Academy
- Songdo Central Park
- Jeondeungsa Temple
- Chamseongdan Altar
- Wolmido Island
- Gwangseongbo Fortress
- May 18th National Cemetery
- Mudeungsan National Park
- Gwangju Folk Museum
- Gwangju National Museum
- Jeungsimsa Temple
- Hanbat Arboretum
- Yuseong Hot Springs
- Expo Park
- Daejeon Museum of Art
- Suwon — Suwon Hwaseong Fortress
- Gwangju (Gyeonggi) — Namhansanseong Fortress
- Kuri — Donggureung Tomb Cluster
- Paju — DMZ, Panmunjeom
- Yongin — Everland, Korean Folk Village, Yongin Daejanggeum Park
- Gapyeong — The Garden of Morning Calm
- Sokcho — Seoraksan, Ulsanbawi, Sinheungsa Temple
- Gangneung — Ojukheon, Seongyojang, birthplace of Yul Gok, Gyeongpo Lake
- Pyeongchang — Woljeongsa, Odaesan, Daegwallyeong Stock Farm
- Yangyang — Naksansa Temple
- Samcheok — Samcheok Railbike, Hwanseong and Daegeum Caves, Haesindang Park, Samcheok Rose Park, Samcheok, Jeungsan, Yonghwa, Maengbang and Jangho Beaches
- Wonju — Gangwon Gamyeong, Guryongsa Temple, Park Kyung-ni Literature Park
- Jeongseon — Molundae
- Hongcheon — Suta Temple
- Yeongwol — Jangreung, Eorayeon, Gossigul, Kimsatgat Sites, Cheongryeongpo, Youngwol dahanu Village
Byeolmaro Observatory, Donggang Photo Museum, Bongraesan Mountain. Hanbando terrain in Soyanggang River
- Taebaek — Taebaek Mountain, Manggyeongsa Temple, Taebaek Mountains LIterature Park, Hwangji Pond
- Cheolwon — Cheorwon Peace Observatory, Memorial Tower of the Baekma Goji (Korean War)
- Hoengseong — Seong Sammum's Tomb, Noeundan, Baekyasa
- Inje —
- Yanggu —
- Hwacheon —
- Boeun — Beopjusa Temple, Songnisan National Park, Samnyeonsanseong Fortress, Seon Byeong-guk House, Songnisan National Park
- Danyang — Guinsa Temple, Gosu Cave, Danyang Ondal Cave, Dodamsambong Peaks
- Cheongju — Cheongju National Museum, Cheongnamdae, Sangdangsanseong Fortress
- Jincheon — Bell Museum, Botapsa Temple
- Gongju — Tomb of King Muryeong, Gongsanseong, Magoksa Temple, Donghaksa Temple, Gapsa Temple, Seonhwadang, Gongju National Museum
- Buyeo — Buyeo National Museum (Gilt-bronze Incense Burner of Baekje), Five storied stone pagoda of Jeongnimsa Temple site, Gungnamji, Nakhwa-am, Muryangsa Temple, Baekje Royal Tombs (Neungsan-ri Ancient Tombs)
- Cheonan — The independence hall of Korea, Gakwonsa Temple
- Seosan — Rock-carved triad buddha, Haemieupseong Fortress
- Nonsan — Mireuk-bosal at Gwanchoksa Temple
- Jeonju — Jeonju Hanok Village, Jeondong Catholic Church, Gyeonggijeon Shrine, Hanji Museum, Royal Portrait Museum, Jeonju Gaeksa, Jeonjuhyanggyo Confucian School
- Namwon — Gwanghallu Pavilion, Chunhyang Theme Park, Manin Cemetery of Righteous Fighters, Silsangsa Temple, Gyoryong Sanseong Fortress
- Gochang — Gochangeupseong Fortress, Seonunsa Temple, Pansori Museum
- Iksan — Mireuksaji Pagoda,
- Gimje — Geumsansa Temple
- Gunsan — Hirotsu House, Dongguksa Temple
- Buan — Tapsa Temple, Byeonsanbando National Park
- Yeosu — Jinnamgwan Hall, Hyangiram, Yi Sun Shin Square
- Suncheon — Songgwangsa Temple, Seonamsa Temple, Nagan Eupseong Folk Village
- Mokpo — Mokpo Modern History Museum, Gatbawi Rock, Yudal Mountain
- Haenam — Ttangggut (End of the Land) Village, Mihwangsa Temple
- Gurye — Hwaeomsa Temple
- Damyang — Damyang Juknokwon, Metasequoia-lined Road, Soswaewon Garden
- Boseong — Boseong Green Tea Field Daehan Dawon
- Wando — Cheongsan island (slow city)
- Gyeongju — Bulguksa Temple, Seokguram, Anapji Pond, Gyeongju National Museum, Cheonmachong Tomb, Cheomseongdae Observatory, Yangdong Folk Village, Bunhwangsaji (Bunhwangsa Temple Site)
- Andong — Hahoe Folk Village, Hahoe Mask Museum, Dosanseowon Confucian School, Byeongsanseowon Confucian School, Wollyeongo Bridge
- Yeongju — Buseoksa Temple
- Mungyeong — Mungyeong Saejae Provincial Park
- Ulleung — Dokdo Island
- Yangsan — Tongdosa Temple
- Hapcheon — Haeinsa Temple
- Tongyeong — Dongpirang Wall Painting Village
- Jinju — Jinjuseong, National Jinju Museum
- Geoje — Historic Park of Geoje POW Camp, Sinseondae
- Namhae — Gacheon Daerangi Village, German Village
- Gimhae — Tomb of King Suro, Tomb of Queen Heo Hwang-ok
- Changnyeong — Upo Wetland
- Miryang — Yeongnamnu, Pyochungsa, Eoreumgol Valley
- Mount Halla
- Cheonjeyeon and Cheonjiyeon waterfalls
- Hallim Park
- Yakcheonsa Temple
- Jeju Stone Statue Park
South Korea has hosted many international events, including the 1988 Summer Olympics, the 1993 Taejon Expo, the 2002 FIFA World Cup (jointly hosted with Japan), the 2005 APEC conference, the 2010 G-20 Seoul summit, the 2014 Asian Games, and the 2018 Winter Olympics.
- Visa policy of South Korea
- KTO (Korea Tourism Organization)
- Tourism in North Korea
- Tourism in Gyeongju
- List of South Korean tourist attractions
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|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for South Korea.|
- South Korea travel and tourism at Curlie
- , the Korea Tourism Organization’s London office website for info on travelling from the UK to Korea (in English)
- Tour2Korea, the Korea Tourism Organization’s website (in English)
- Ministry of Culture and Tourism (in English)
- , Park Air Travel Ltd Specialists in Travel to Korea – London office website (in English)