August 24, 2019 08:21
Growing numbers of Korean travelers also mean that more of them are falling victim to crimes and accidents, but police there and their home country's consulates often leave them high and dry.
According to the Foreign Ministry, 12,529 Korean tourists became victims of crime or accidents overseas in 2017 compared to just 5,952 in 2014. Most of the cases involved theft, but there were also 185 robberies, 118 rapes or sexual assaults and seven murders.
The most dangerous place for Koreans was Europe with its roaming gangs of aggressive pickpockets in tourist hotspots with 5,249 victims, which was worse than the 5,193 in Asia-Pacific and 1,955 in the U.S. and Canada.
One staffer at a travel agency specializing in tours to Europe said, "I've never seen a single case solved by local police, and there are many obstacles when reaching out to the Foreign Ministry for help, so it's better just to give up."
One 47-year-old woman who travels between Seoul and London frequently said she lost 900 euros in London in May after falling victim to scam. She and her husband were approached by two men posing as policemen on their way from Waterloo Station to their hotel and were told to show their passports.
The two men demanded money if the couple did not want to be arrested on drug charges. Kim ended up forking over 900 euros. "We did not report the crime since it is difficult for tourists to have their cases resolved," she claimed.
A 21-year-old was mugged by a homeless man in Florence, who bumped into her, hit her and demanded she hand over her smartphone. When she and her friend screamed, two Italian men came to their rescue and the mugger ran away.
Experts advised tourists not to let their guard down while in Europe. Travel writer Oh Jae-chul said, "A popular scam these days is for a team of two people to approach a tourist pretending to conduct a survey while another picks their pockets while their attention is diverted."
Oh warned tourists to avoid secluded areas at midnight of major cities in Italy and France, which have seen a big influx of refugees.
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