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S. Korea pushes to fine unlicensed Chinese tour guides

South Korea is pushing to levy fines on unlicensed Chinese tour guides and beef up education to enhance the quality of tour services provided to a rising number of Chinese travelers, the culture ministry said Thursday.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism is seeking to toughen regulations after unqualified Chinese guides, most of them being Chinese pass holders, were found to have delivered misleading information about Korean culture and history.

Under the current law, tour agencies can be stripped of their operating licenses if they are caught hiring tour guides without certification three times, but individuals were not punished.

A total of 10 tour agencies specializing in Chinese tourism had their licenses revoked last year, and a dozen more are currently under review for illegal practices.

The latest measure comes in response to rising concerns of cultural misunderstanding among visiting Chinese after an on-site inspection conducted by the Korean Association of Tour Agents in December revealed that Chinese tour guides often distorted historical facts while explaining ancient palaces and cultural heritage.

The ministry also said it will expand the Korean history and geography portions on the certification test and regularly conduct continued education and reviews of working guides.

"Currently, Chinese tour guides can work in their lifetime once they get the guide license," a culture ministry official said. "The government is considering conducting additional tests and re-education after a certain period of time, and canceling the licenses of those who fall behind the standard to prevent them from distorting Korean history and culture."

According to the Korea Tourism Organization, 6.12 million Chinese visited South Korea last year, up 41.6 percent from a year ago, raising their ratio among foreign tourist groups from 35.5 percent to 43.1 percent. (Yonhap)