Many Chinese tourists leave Korea with a bad taste in their mouth, a straw poll suggests. The Chosun Ilbo late last year interviewed 100 Chinese visitors to Myeong-dong, Dongdaemun and Gangam shopping districts, and that 25 said their image of Korea got worse due to their visit, while 37 said they felt belittled or even derided by Koreans.
Yet a total of 3.92 million Chinese tourists visited Korea last year to become the largest group of visitors to the country. Chinese tourists are big spenders, spending an average of US$2,154 in Korea in 2012 compared to the overall average of $1,530 for all tourists.
Some of the tourists said they could tell they were being sneered at even though they do not speak Korean. Eighteen said they sensed it from certain words or tone of voice. And 10 said they understand enough Korean to know when they are being derided.
Most of the Chinese visitors had a positive attitude to the country when they arrived here. Korean soap operas and pop music played a major role in fostering goodwill.
Experts warn that discrimination and disdain from Koreans could prompt more people from China to take their business elsewhere.
Chung Duk-koo of the Northeast Asia Research Foundation said, "The starting point of Korea-China relations is the first impression Chinese tourists get when they visit our country." If they get a bad impression and feel Koreans are rude, this could have devastating effects that go beyond the tourism industry, he added.