Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ask a Korean! Wiki: Tourism of Korea in English

Dear Korean,

My wife and I are planning a vacation to South Korea. Can you recommend any tourist companies and the best time of year to visit? We need an have an English speaking tour guide taking us around South Korea in a bus or shuttle.


Dear Thomas,

The Korean never needed a tourist company (much less an English-speaking one) to tour Korea, so he has no idea. Readers, can you help?

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. I've never heard of English-speaking tourists visiting Korea. The country has been waiting for them for years, but I don't think they exist. In a year and a bit, the only Westerners I've met that traveled to Korea were three backpackers (French, Swedish, Australian).

    Companies like Adventure Korea or Go 'n' See Korea do tours of Korea. You can do a temple stay or go crab fishing or something like that. I'd imagine they must also be able to take you around Seoul if they can take you to Seoraksan or ice fishing.

  2. I just came back after touring korea for 3 weeks.
    From September 24th to October 17th It was sunny for 3 weeks.
    I've spend two weeks in Busan during August. It's usually really hot and Humide.During Fall temperatures are between 5-20 C°

    I stayed in Seoul for 3 days, then Busan Geoje-do, Hadong, Beosang, Sunchang, geongju, jeju-do. It was really intensive tour. I would have loved to stay longer in some of the place we visited.

    Check this website, he has a lot of place worth visiting in Korea

    Also opening an account there lots of info for travlers

    I don't know any tour company, I was traveling with my wife. Sorry

  3. There's lot of them around. The only problem is that most are pretty expensive because they rent a bus and stay in nice hotels. If your budget is tight, look for one that uses local transportation means (buses, trains and taxis) and stays in love-hotels.

    @Adeel: I don't know were you're staying but I've met lots of tourists all over Korea, especially in Seoul. I did the DMZ tour with the USO and they managed to pack two full buses with mostly English-speaking tourists. And they do this tour 3 times a week, all year round.

  4. Really? I've only met one non-Asian tourist in Seoul, and that was the Swede. The other two I know of who visited Korea, I met in China and France. My impression was always that tourists came from China or Japan. On my two trips to the DMZ, the tour buses were filled with other English teachers and their visiting families or Korean friends.


    Thanks for posting my question. I am planning to visit about 2 weeks in South Korea. I want to visit the DMZ, Kunsan, Seoul, and the rest of South Korea. I discovered that you will see more of the country by doing the semi-private group tours.

    The link in my post is the official South Korea tourism web site.


  6. @Adeel: Yeah, I'm sure most tourists are coming from either China or Japan, but you can still see quite a few Western tourists. Of course South Korea is certainly not a "hot" destination for Western tourists but still. I'm sure that there are some stats out there.

  7. There are some stats out there and Korea has a pretty decent tourist industry. Korea pulls in nearly 7 million tourists a year and while those numbers pale in comparison to France, USA and China, they aren't too bad considering Korea's isolation and regional competition.

    It seems that Korea's trouble isn't the quantity, but quality. The average stay in Korea is only three days. That's not enough to see Seoul, let alone the country, but when a large majority of those tourists are NE Asian shoppers (and Japanese sex tourists taking advantage of the yen-won exchange), that's what you get.

    Stats say it all and certainly disprove Adeel's "French, Swedish and Australian" assumption.

    Spend a few minutes looking over those numbers. Facinating stuff and it shows where Korea is doing well and where it needs to improve.

  8. Just fly me over and take care of my room and board... maybe a little more expensive than the agencies, but you won't have to choose their bland cookie-cutter tours either.

  9. Actually, I second what Adeel said. I mean, I am not sure why but I did not see a Westerner in Seoul during my short visit in May this year. This surprised me! All I saw were from Taiwan, Hongkong, China and Japan as well as some South East Asian countries (likes Vietnam where I am from, Singapore...)

  10. "I've never heard of English-speaking tourists visiting Korea."


    "I am not sure why but I did not see a Westerner in Seoul during my short visit in May this year."

    These have got to be the most absurd claims I've heard in awhile.

  11. Well, you can't deny a claim about what I've experienced. If I I've never seen an episode of the Simpsons, you can't tell me that it's an "absurd claim", though you can tell me it's shocking that I've never seen one, and that I certainly should've seen one. In my year in Korea, I didn't meet anybody that was just there visiting.

    Obviously there are English-speaking tourists in korea, but they don't come in large numbers. For a country with that much to see, I think the number is sadly very low.

  12. This blog reminds me of my conversation with my wife’s parent in Taiwan. My wife’s parents said there is nothing to see outside of Taipei, Taiwan. We discovered a great tour company that drove us around Taiwan for about a week. Our tour group had about 8 people and most of them were from China. My wife’s parents were so impressed with our pictures that they took the tour.

    The ideal tour that I am looking for is about 8 people. The tour company will drive us around South Korea to see the sights. The tour company would make arrangements for us to stay at decent hotels along the way.

  13. Something that people may not be taking into account is that not all English-speaking tourists in Korea are going to be Caucasian. I'm ethnically Korean, but I was adopted and grew up in the US. I live in Korea right now, and have had friends from the US visit in Seoul. Most of them were also ethnically Korean or Chinese, yet are Americans.

    Just a thought.

  14. Gyeongju - you gotta go see old Silla..

    hanatour will take you from Seoul Station and take you on a whirlwind tour.
    as you can see here

    They'll pick you up at Seoul Station.

    As someone else noted, if you're adventurous and want to spend time not money, grab the Mugungwha to Dongdaegu and then Gyeongju. Love motels and yeogwan are cheap and easy.

    The tours are a bit speedy and an English speaking host may be too much to ask for, but they do move you from place to place..

  15. I stayed at the COEX InterContinental Hotel at Seoul. There are local sight-seeing english-speaking tourist ads at the info desk. I joined one (but forgot the name but it was a person's name and I think the last name was Hwang); it was good. Have fun.

  16. Hey I work for the Korea Tourism Organization and would be happy to help anyone out, just get in contact with me.

  17. OK Marie,

    maybe you can explain how 2010 to 2012 is one year?


  18. That's an interesting question. The person working before me mentioned it but I guess it somehow got overlooked. Now it's recently come out in the Korean media (one that specializes in picking out poor English), so it should be changed on the upcoming promotional material.

  19. Marie,

    Just teasing... I actually like some of the changes the KTO has made in the last year (their response on that horrible widget was heartening). Enough that some time past I even wrote an editorial for the Times about it.

    It might be easier for people coming by here if you had a work email accessible. I followed your avatar, but all it seemed to lead to was your FLICKR page?

    I could just be lame. ;-)

  20. Since I am on contract I dont' have an official KTO email, but I can be contacted through gmail. Does it not come up here?

  21. Oh and thanks for your feedback ^^.

  22. There are Goodwill Guides available through through the Office of Tourism of Korea. (

    You only pay for their food and modes of transportation which are at your discretion.

  23. Is Gunsan another spelling for Kunsan?


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