South Korea

May 11, 2017

Ironically, the first thing I noticed about Korea is the prevalence of Chinese.

One thing in particular. There are four languages used at the airport, and the prevalence with which they are used varies. Korean, English, Chinese, and Japanese are used on most airport signs, as well as in the subway.

But on the bus from the airport, I saw a sign that said “Please buckle your seatbelt” in two languages: Korean and English. On the same bus, there were advertisements for duty-free goods at the airport, also in two languages: Korean and Chinese. The coupons in the seat pocket in front of me, also for duty-free goods, were printed in Korean and Chinese.

Modern Chinese tourists are infamous for rampant consumerism. Perhaps the best known narrative is found on the Champs-Elysees, where a line outside the Louis Vuitton store is generally dominated by mainland Chinese. So it isn’t necessarily surprising that advertisements in Seoul can be found in both Korean and Chinese.

Korean marketers have found their best source of income from the Chinese. They know that the best people to sell to are the newly rich mainland Chinese tourists that have piles of money to spend.

In Hong Kong, I make generally speak English when I am buying things, to avoid the bias against mainland Chinese shoppers. At the same time, if I do speak Chinese, some salespeople will make a bigger effort to sell me something, because they are certain that I will buy.

Traveling around Asia has revealed how the rapid accumulation of wealth in China has impacted the tourism industry in the rest of Asia.

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