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‘You’re fat’: Shopping woes top list of tourist complaints in Korea



Foreign tourists wearing hanbokok, or traditional Korean attire, pose for a photo in front of Gyeongbok Palace in central Seoul on May 1. [YONHAP]

A British tourist was humiliated at a rental shop for hanbok, or traditional Korean attire, when she visited Korea last year. A shop employee called her “fat” in Korean after she tried on multiple hanbok to find her size.
This case demonstrates one of the biggest complaints made by foreign tourists visiting the country — “shopping-related” inconveniences.
According to recent data from the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), most complaints submitted to its Tourist Complaint Center by foreign visitors last year were related to shopping.
Of 902 complaints filed to the center last year, 808 were made by foreign tourists.
The KTO said the number of complaints from foreign visitors increased from just 193 in 2022, with increased tourism following the end of the pandemic.
Shopping-related complaints accounted for 23.8 percent of total grievances last year, or 215 cases.
The most common issue was price gouging, which made up 27.9 percent of shopping-related complaints, followed by tax refunds at 24.7 percent and refund and exchange policies at 13 percent.
A Japanese tourist reported purchasing foot masks for 8,000 won ($5.80) for a pack of 10 but ended up paying 80,000 won. A visitor from Hong Kong recounted a similar experience when she spent 5,900 won on a bottle of sesame seeds marked at 4,000 won.
One in 10 shopping-related complaints involved poor service.
Another tourist from Hong Kong complained about her experience at a shoe store, where a staff member yelled at her for trying on a displayed shoe.
Taxi service was the second most reported inconvenience with 170 cases, accounting for 18.8 percent of the complaints. Of these cases, 66.5 percent involved drivers overcharging and refusing to turn on meters.  
Complaints concerning accommodations were the third most common, with 142 reported cases, or 15.7 percent, although domestic tourists made a third of the complaints.
The most common accommodation-related complaints concerned poor facilities and hygiene.  
The KTO and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism vowed to cooperate with local governments to address tourists’ inconveniences.
The ministry also plans to recruit 100 individuals to conduct four inspections from next month through October to improve tourism services.


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