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[Video] Tour service to link Korean ‘oppa’ with foreign visitors

A South Korean software company has launched a specialty tour service targeting foreign visitors hoping for their own “oppa,” as depicted in Korean TV dramas.

Korean women use the term “oppa” to address an older male family member, friend or romantic partner of the same generation. The service -- “Oh My Oppa” -- allows foreign visitors to “rent an oppa.”

“It started out as a joke that foreigners coming to Korea expect to find men like the ones they see on dramas, but no, there aren’t any men on the streets that are as good-looking, tall and nice as the TV stars,” said Lee Joon-woo, CEO of Winwincook, in an interview with The Korea Herald.

Lee’s company conducted a test run of the Oh My Oppa service last month and is now preparing to launch a full-fledged service in April.

(Shot and edited by Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)

“We thought we would present these tourists with men we can be proud of. Although it was a joke at first, we followed up with an actual website, and the social media reaction has been beyond our expectations,” Lee said.

The Oh My Oppa website currently features seven Korean men, who are not professional tour guides but friendly local “bros” willing to offer assistance for a fee. They may cut up steak for tourists, take flattering photographs and offer encouraging comments. However, as they are real Korean men with minimal training, English may not be their forte.

During the tour, the guides and tourists may visit pet cafes or do activities that require extra payment, but only if they agree. For paid activities, bills are split.

Lee said demand for the tour guides has mainly come from European countries such as France, England and Germany, and Southeast Asian countries including Hong Kong, Thailand and Indonesia.

(Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)
(Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)

The idea of “renting an oppa” might seem bizarre, even ludicrous to some, but it’s hardly the first of its kind. Chinese app Hire Me Plz offers instant dates to bring to occasions such as family events that demand a presentable plus one. In the US, Heartbreak Manservant rents out men who will listen to clients’ stories of past love, serve them ice cream, braid their hair and paint their nails.

Lee himself has worked on and off for the Oh My Oppa service under the name “Joon” on its website.

Starting small, most of the Korean tour guides listed on the website are either Lee’s friends or those recommended by acquaintances. “Ryan oppa,” for instance, is an old friend of Lee’s from elementary school.

While some may wonder if Oh My Oppa is a differently branded male escort service, Lee said the notion of “oppa” among foreigners seems to revolve around the images portrayed in K-drama, and therefore is not likely to be so associated. 

(Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)
(Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)

Oh My Oppa has strict guidelines when it recruits new tour guides to check if they are suitable candidates for the gentlemanly role of being a knight for a day to foreign visitors, though Lee refused to reveal the guidelines.

The guides are advised not to arrange tours at night or go out drinking with their assigned tourists.

Online reservations opened Wednesday, ahead of an official launch slated for next month.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (