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Phone service makes Seoul travel easy

A “tt” call center operator answers a caller’s questions. (Korea Tourism Organization)
A “tt” call center operator answers a caller’s questions. (Korea Tourism Organization)
‘tt’ call center operators offer information, care


On a cold December day last year, an elderly Japanese woman was found sitting on the steps of Myeong-dong subway station. The person who found her wanted to take her to her destination but couldn’t communicate in Japanese.

The person called 1330 and was able to communicate with the woman through the Japanese language interpreter on the phone. The call was also transferred to the police who tracked down a report of the disappearance of an elderly Japanese woman. It did not take long for the woman’s daughter, who was staying at the nearby Lotte Hotel, to come pick up her mother.

“tt” call center was launched in September 1999 to offer information on tourism, transportation, lodging, festivals and other events to travelers in Seoul. The name of the center stands for Thirteen Thirty in reference to the phone number, or Traveling Telephone.

It was recently linked with 112, the emergency phone number, to enlist the assistance of the police to meet the urgent needs of travelers. It has been of good use so far ― between August and December 2011, nearly 800 calls that came to 1330 were swiftly transferred to the emergency number.

The call center is not just for emergencies, however. It is open to any questions related to traveling in Korea, such as asking the address of the location where a K-drama was filmed. 1330 can also be useful for Koreans who need to assist travelers but are not conversant in foreign languages.

Kim So-young, one of the Chinese-language operators at “tt” call center, gave an example of a memorable case. She received a call from a motel in Itaewon-dong who put a crying Chinese tourist on the phone without any explanation.

As it turns out, the tourist had in fact already checked in at another motel, leaving all her belongings there, but had completely forgotten where it was. What is worse was that her motel could not be looked up on the Internet.

“I asked her how she ended up at the wrong hotel, what subway stations she passed, what kind of buildings were there near her original lodging, and was finally able to track down the motel. It was a difficult case, but I was able to solve it because we did not give up,” said Lee.

The number of calls is increasing every year ― the center received 133,045 calls in 2009, and 204,055 calls in 2011. Last year, 25.3 percent of the calls were questions about transportation, 13.8 percent about tourism locations and 10.8 percent about Korea Tourism Organization, according to the call center.

Around 20 operators ― 10 specializing in English and five each for Chinese and Japanese ― work at the 1330 call center. They regularly receive training in telephone manners as well as intensive courses on making claims on behalf of the callers. They also visit important tourism spots to offer better information about the venues.

In addition to 112, the call center is also linked to 120 (Dasan Seoul Call Center), 110 (Government Call Center), 119 (Emergency Call Center) and 1345 (Immigration Contact Center).

“tt” call center can be reached by calling 1330 through mobile phones and landline phones in Seoul. Outside of Seoul, dial (02) 1330. The line is open 24 hours and services are available in English, Chinese and Japanese.

By Park Min-young  (claire@heraldcorp.com)
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