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Seoul City takes foreigners out on SNS-driven tour

All Headlines 17:32 April 05, 2016

By Park Sojung

SEOUL, April 5 (Yonhap) -- Dozens of foreigners were taken on a municipally organized tour of Seoul on Tuesday, with every part of the journey being documented in real-time on social media.

More than 20 people from countries all over the world, including China, Malaysia, Turkey and Russia, took part in the 2016 Global Seoul Mate Spring Outing, which is a spin-off of a similar event held last year. The event in October, called Seoul Graphers, was also organized by the Seoul Metropolitan Government to encourage people to take flattering photos of Seoul and upload them for everyone to see.

The cohort this year convened at Galleria Duty Free in the island district of Yeouido on Tuesday morning. Although most didn't have plans to travel anywhere anytime soon, the "Seoul Mates," as the city called them, were told to take photos of things they liked and upload them on social media.

"We initially thought of taking them to a street famous for its cherry blossoms in Yeouido, and decided to include the Galleria Duty Free since it's in the area and it's new," Lee Ja-young, head of the Tourism Business Division of SMG, said. The shop was opened in December and was already bustling with a crowd mostly comprised of Chinese tourists at its opening.

After completing the first task, participants were treated to a lavish buffet in the basement of Hanhwa 63 City. Even there, they were put to "work," taking snapshots of foods and posting them on social networking services (SNS). They used Facebook, Instagram and even China's Weibo, in addition to the city's official tourism website (http://www.seoulstory.kr).

The next part of the nine-hour tour was perhaps the most anticipated of all destinations since all people interviewed said they had looked forward to it the most: seeing the cherry blossoms in Yeouido.

"We don't have cherry blossom festivals in China because it's the national flower of Japan," Park Mi-young, a Korean-Chinese exchange student from Shanghai, said, alluding to China's strained relations with Japan.

It was Sunday Kailing's first time seeing the flower. The Malaysian expressed surprise at the scores of people it attracted, with every three steps being interrupted by someone wielding a DSLR.

"It's probably good that we came during the week and not on the weekend," Kailing, an exchange student at Yonsei University in Seoul, said, followed by a laugh.

Arman Carinan from the Philippines said he heard about the tour on Facebook and decided to come because he is "really into Korea."

"I've been going to places and participating in events like this for some time now," Carinan, who works for a manufacturing company in South Korea, said. "(I love Korea), the place itself, the culture and the tradition."

Even though he has traveled all over the country for the past three years, Carinan said this tour has allowed him to explore an area easily overlooked even by locals.

"Whenever I rode on the subway, I've seen this building (Hanhwa 63 City) and I've been very curious about it," the 30-year-old said.

The group is expected to travel back to Hanhwa City 63, and then visit Sky Art, an observatory. They will then go on a yacht tour on the Han River and wrap up with dinner at Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market.

sojungpark@yna.co.kr
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