Saturday, June 18, 2011

Favoritism for foreigners in Korea

I've read this very interesting article this morning about favoritism for foreigners here in Korea to access Namsan (Mt. Nam). FYI Namsan is a very famous tourist spot in Seoul so usually you would see a lot of tourists probably more than the number of Koreans visiting. haha. I just find this article interesting not just because of the idea of "Korea should favor Koreans" but also because discrimination against foreigners living in Korea exists this is a bit ironic. Anyway here's the article

The rule meant to give foreigners easier access to the top of Mt. Nam in Seoul is creating a dispute over “reverse discrimination” against Korean visitors. It is also raising the question: does convenience for foreign tourists worsen the environment?
The 2005 regulation obliges Korean citizens to walk, take a cable car, or ride a shuttle bus up the parkway leading to the main tower, for nature preservation. However, foreigners are allowed an additional and much more convenient option ― taxis.
At the parkway entrance adjacent to the National Theater of Korea, there is a local-language sign displaying the instruction allowing taxis carrying foreign nationals to pass through the checkpoint.
Some visitors say it is not fair to give special treatment to foreign tourists if the general idea is actually about protecting the environment.
“I’m dumbfounded,” said Kim Yang-seon, a regular visitor who was unaware of the exception. “If the purpose of the regulation was to protect Mt. Nam, everybody should follow the same rule.”
While many citizens were sighted on Friday walking along the parkway, no one who was interviewed knew about the exception for foreign nationals.
“Personally, I don’t need preferential treatment,” said Kurc Martell, a tourist from Canada who said he took the electric bus to visit Seoul Tower.
The cable car, which climbs the mountain on the opposite side, was full of kindergarten children on school trips and tourists, domestic and foreign, on Friday morning.
Most buses, recently changed to environment-friendly electric units, had no more than 10 passengers. On the weekends, however, it is common to see filled with Korean passengers.
Rick Stautz, an engineer from California on a family vacation, said that the concierge at his hotel hailed him a cab, dissuading him from taking the bus. “He told us it was too complicated,” he said. “With the traffic in Seoul, the bus would definitely be slower.” He, however, agreed that zero-emission buses would make more sense for the environment and in terms of fairness.
“The information about the bus was in my guidebook,” said Yung Shin from Taipei, Taiwan. “It makes sense to me, though, that tourists should have easy access. But then again, tourists have a lot of time, and so we can walk.”
Lee Dong-ju, an official at the Central Green Seoul Management Office, said, “The exception was not meant to be favoritism; it was actually based on requests from tourist agencies as well as bus and taxi companies.“
The official said the Seoul city government has no plan to change the rule for now.

by: Kwaak Je-yup (

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