The Korea Herald

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Mobile apps open up new channel to explore Korea

By 양승진

Published : July 1, 2011 - 21:56

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While a number of blogs and homepages are already offering a wide range of detailed information about Korea for visitors in English and other languages, the same segment is still in its infancy in the universe of mobile apps.

But it’s too early to give up yet. Though the number of related apps for iPhone and iPad users is small, a dozen apps deserve attention. More importantly, the outlook appears good as the mobile app market of Korea is surging at breakneck pace, with market researcher Distimo describing the country’s surging app download volume as “most remarkable.”

For non-Korean iPhone users who plan to visit the country in future, tourism-related apps are essential. Gyeonggi Tour2 is a case in point.

Developed by Gyeonggi Tourist Service Inc., Gyeonggi Tour2 app offers 2,200 pieces of information on the region’s famous restaurants, accommodation, festivals and events.

The app comes with an improved user interface which allows people to exchange reviews, comments and grades on tourist sites. Also, it provides a search engine and navigation services through Location Based Service.

Hacholi is in the same tourism information category as it contains subway line maps of Seoul, Gwangju, Busan, Daejeon and Daegu, which users can pick as a default option. Hacholi provides basic information of real-time subway train departure and arrival time. It allows users to search fastest and shortest routes between two stations. Previews on maps around the subway station and search engines to find the nearest subway station, based on Google maps, are also offered. The app also provides tourist attractions near the subway stations as well as telephone numbers for local taxi companies.

“I got lost several times in subway stations especially when making a transfer, but since I got my smart phone, it is a lot easier for me. All I need to do is type in my departure station and arrival station. It shows all the roots in a second,” said Osakue Martins, a Nigerian student who is currently attending Korea University. 
(From Left) World Nomads Korean Language Guide, Kfood Magazine, Visit Korea (From Left) World Nomads Korean Language Guide, Kfood Magazine, Visit Korea

When it comes to maps, perhaps the most favored app among Koreans, except for the preinstalled Youtube app on iPhone, would be Naver Map. This popular app features street view and aerial view service of major metropolitan areas, while providing realtime traffic information and CCTV images of major roads. It uses the Quick Pathfinder service to help users find directions for automobile, public transportation, bicycle and or on foot. Also, users can find directions with their voices and save maps for offline usage.

Mathis Buchi from Switzerland was quick to tout the apps’ strengths: “My all-time favorite is the Naver Map app that can find addresses and places very easily once you figured out how to write in Korean. It is very useful since Google maps does not work well in Korea. It also has some features I have never seen before on a mobile app such as accessing traffic cameras on highways and checking out the view over the city from a drone’s perspective.”

Tourists in Korea might like to browse not only locations but also food, language and even medical services. KBS World Korean Cuisine, for instance, is a mobile app version of KBS World Radio’s weekly cuisine program, “Happy Cooking & Healthy Eating.” The app details the origin, special ingredients, recipes and reviews for 52 popular hansik dishes in 11 languages.

Drinking is also a good topic for app developers, and Mak-geol-li is the app that stands out. This app is directed towards those who have a special interest in Korea’s traditional rice wine, makgeolli. The app not only gives basic information about the beverage but also lists areas famous for makgeolli and foods that go well with the popular drink.

World Nomads Korean Language Guide is a free iPhone app with an English interface, developed by World Nomads. The Korean language guide for tourists features over 200 spoken phrases categorized into travel safety, finding accommodation, food, health, numbers, dates and even flirting. The app offers audio lessons featuring dialogue between an English speaker and a Korean woman.

One particular trend in the Korean wave in recent years is that a growing number of Asian travelers are drawn to Korea’s advanced medical services. Mediapp Korea is a free English-language mobile app targeting those health-conscious tourists.

This app provides information on Korea’s medical industry in four different languages ― English, Russian, Chinese and Japanese. The app, developed by the state-run Korea Tourism Organization as part of its effort to promote the country’s medical and tourism industry, offers a vast of information on medical services, institutions and the latest news on the industry. The free app is also a medical planner which alerts iPhone users at scheduled times to check their sugar level, blood pressure or to take prescribed medicine, according to KTO.

Another notable KTO app is Visit Korea. This app is designed to help tourists by, listing lodgings, transportation and seasonal hot spots. Extra features include currency exchange rates, weather, time, maps and emergency contacts.

As for news apps, K-pop News provides information about bands and singers directly to iPhone users, an app in sync with the growing popularity of hallyu throughout the world. The app shows a collection of news from various sources, live Twitter updates about K-pop and related blogs. Users will find it easy to share any news and blog articles posted on the app with their friends via Twitter, Facebook or email.

Compared with the iPhone user base in Korea (the figure surpassed the 2 million mark in January this year), the iPad app market is not so active yet. Considering iPad’s bigger screen and more powerful computing capability, Korean government agencies, companies and individual app developers are expected to start churning out apps customized for the tablet in the coming months.

Among a small group of iPad apps for those interested in Korea, Kfood Magazine ―- Volume 001 is worth checking out. This paid app ($2.99), also available on iPhone, is an English-language monthly iPad cuisine magazine that offers recipes of popular Korean dishes and introduces the ever-changing food culture of Korea. It features 10 popular Korean recipes with photos and videos and instructions in both English and Korean, latest food trends, special visits to local farmer’s market and an introduction to special Korean ingredients.

Beauty of Korea HD, meanwhile, is a free iPad app, developed by Park Dong-yoon. This app offers a glimpses into beautiful photos of historic cites in Korea with brief descriptions, while providing a map service linked up with Google maps.

In addition to culinary and visual aesthetics, martial arts can be illustrated effectively on iPad, and Taekwondo Kicks attempts to achieve the goal by showing how to learn the official Taekwondo Kukkiwon Kicks through a series of video clips.

Developed by a British taekwondo lover, the iPad app shows different types of Taekwondo kicks demonstrated via video split screen, first at full speed and then in slow motion. This free app also comes with interesting pieces of information about taekwondo, characterized by its spectacular kicks and strikes. 

By Yang Sung-jin (insight@heraldcorp.com)

Cho Chung-un, Lee Woo-young, Jung Eun-jung, and Christopher Kim contributed to this article. ― Ed.