Chinese tourist problem goes up in smoke

February 18, 2016
Chinese tourists smokes in Myeongdong, Seoul. (Courtesy of Hankook Ilbo)

Chinese tourists smokes in Myeongdong, Seoul. (Courtesy of Hankook Ilbo)

By The Korea Times Seoul staff

Chinese visitors ignoring smoking bans in Seoul have become increasingly noticeable.

The complaints follow an influx of tourists during the New Year holidays, known as Chunjie.

The visitors, who have a relatively lenient smoking culture, are not reluctant to smoke at tourist attractions in Seoul, such as Myeongdong, a shopping district, historic palaces and amusement parks.

During the biggest holiday season in China from Feb. 7 to 13, more than 155,000 Chinese tourists, up 18 percent from a year earlier, visited Korea, according to Hankook Ilbo.

Although smoking is prohibited in the Myeongdong shopping district and at historic palaces including Gyeongbokgung and Deoksugung, many tourists did not heed the bans.

“Old palaces are non-smoking areas because they are extremely fire prone, but it is not easy to keep the tourists from smoking,” an official of the palace’s management office was quoted as saying.

“Some tourists even showed me a roll of bills, saying they will pay the fine.”

Gyeongbokgung officials have sent official notices of an anti-smoking promotion to the Korea Tourism Organization and Korea Association of Travel Agents since 2014. But the Government said it is difficult to crackdown on the illegal smoking of foreign tourists.

“It is almost impossible to check identification to impose a penalty, and the payment is only operated with credit or debit cards issued in Korea,” said an official of Junggu District Office in Seoul.

“We can only give a guidance of smoking rules at this moment.”