Chinese tourists cite language as biggest shopping nuisance

By Korea Herald
  • Published : May 7, 2014 - 20:42
  • Updated : May 7, 2014 - 20:42
Chinese travelers in South Korea cited communication problems as the biggest obstacle they face when shopping here, while Japanese tourists were more irked by aggressive salespeople, a poll showed Wednesday.

According to the survey conducted by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry on 150 tourists each from China and Japan in early April, almost 60 percent of the Chinese visitors cited the language barrier as the biggest difficulty in shopping here.

“A steady growth in the number of Japanese tourists from the mid-1990s led to an increase in the number of merchants who can speak Japanese at major tourist spots, including Myeong-dong and Namdaemun Market, but there does not seem to be enough Chinese-speaking merchants to deal with tourists from China, whose numbers nearly tripled over the past five years,” the KCCI said in its report.

The number of Chinese tourists to South Korea grew 34.1 percent a year on average between 2009 and 2013.

In 2013 alone, 4.33 million Chinese travelers came to Korea, far outnumbering the 2.75 million Japanese tourists.

“More Chinese traveled to South Korea on the back of a simplified immigration process for Chinese (visitors) introduced by the South Korean government, while the weakening of the Japanese yen discouraged the Japanese from making trips to South Korea,” the KCCI said.

In order to lure more Chinese travelers, the South Korean government streamlined visa procedures for Chinese travelers in 2010. Chinese passport holders can also travel to the country’s southern resort island of Jeju for 30 days without a visa.

The KCCI called for more Chinese-speaking sales representatives to be stationed at major tourist spots and for more information to be provided in Chinese.

According to the poll, 29.3 percent of Japanese tourists surveyed said the salespeople were often too aggressive, pressuring them to buy when they were shopping. Language was the second-biggest problem for the Japanese travelers.

Both groups picked Seoul’s Myeong-dong as their favorite place to shop.

By Bae Ji-sook and news reports