More Than 10 Million Tourists Visited Seoul Last Year

The number of foreign tourists to Seoul exceeded the 10 million mark last year amid the sustained popularity of Korean pop culture abroad.

Some 10.04 million foreign tourists came to the capital in 2013, the Seoul Metropolitan Government said Thursday, up 1 million from a year earlier and about 80 percent of all 12.18 million foreign visitors to Korea.

Foreign tourists of all nationalities liked Myeong-dong best, according a city government survey of 2,626 visitors.

They liked the ambience of the busy shopping district. Next came Dongdaemun Market, Gwanghwamun, Namdaemun Market, and Insa-dong. All five most-visited areas lie north of the Han River.

But upscale Gangnam south of the river also saw a surge in young visitors thanks to Psy's mega hit "Gangnam Style." Other favorite places for foreigners included the river itself with its many parks, and the area near Hongik University, which has become a popular nightlife destination.

Foreign tourists walk in the shopping district of Myeong-dong, Seoul on Jan. 15. Foreign tourists walk in the shopping district of Myeong-dong, Seoul on Jan. 15.

Foreign visitors stayed in Seoul for 5.3 days of the total 6.8 days they spent on average in Korea.

Some 73.7 percent of Chinese tourists visited Seoul for the first time, as compared to 28.9 percent of Japanese tourists. Chinese tourists visited Seoul 1.7 times on average, as against 8.4 times for Japanese visitors.

Foreign tourists spent an average of W2.45 million (US$1=W1,076), up 7.9 percent from 2012's W2.27 million. Most Japanese tourists bought chiefly food, most Chinese tourists cosmetics, and tourists from Southeast Asia clothing.

Shopping malls in Dongdaemun provide public service announcements, information on shops, and price labels in Chinese, Japanese and English.

"Seoul has now become a world-class tourist destination," said Keum Ki-yong of The Seoul Institute said. "We need continued policy support and help from citizens to make Seoul a city foreigners want to visit again rather than just once."

englishnews@chosun.com / Jan. 24, 2014 09:28 KST