Updated October. 15, 2013 06:08
Officials, clad in tidy uniform and beret, have name tags reading English, Chinese V and Japanese in the chest section of their jacket. This is the image of tourism police who will appear at major tourist attractions in Seoul starting from Wednesday. Tourism police is a police organization that will be exclusively in charge of handling illegal activities targeting foreign tourists, including overcharging of service fees.
The Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministry and the National Police Agency said on Monday that 101 tourism police officers will start activities at major tourism hotspots across Seoul from Wednesday. The tourism police will be deployed in groups at Myeongdong, Itaewon, Dongdaemun, Insa-dong, Hongik University area, Cheonggyecheon, and Seoul City Hall area, and will concentrate on crackdown of service fee overcharging against tourists, illegal call van (for carrying luggage and passengers) service. They will also help address inhospitality and denials of refund that foreign tourists could experience at stores and restaurants. The ministry will provide assistance to enable foreign tourists to conveniently contact tourism police by dialing tourism hotline "1330."
A total of 52 incumbent police officers and 49 conscripted policemen, who are proficient in English, Chinese and Japanese, have been singled out as tourism police. The ministry and the police agency plan to have them wear special police uniforms that are designed by designer Kim Seo-ryong to ensure that tourism police themselves will become Koreas iconic tourist attraction in themselves. The fact that tourism police exist in itself will help reduce illegal activities preying on foreigners, said Shin Yong-eon, director-general of the tourism bureau at the ministry. We will develop them into a tourism product like honor guards and brass band in foreign countries.
The ministry plans to expand tourism police to other regions in the country that attract large numbers of foreign tourists, including Busan, Incheon and Jeju, after implementing the tourism police system in Seoul on a pilot basis.
According to the Korea Tourism Organization, the number of complaints regarding illegal call van service took up 15 to 20 percent of all complaints filed by foreign tourists over the past five years, and the number of reporting regarding shopping, including overcharging and denial of refunds, increased from 23.6 percent in 2008 to 34.7 percent in 2012.