On the morning of the 25th in a parking lot near Hongik University in Seoul, a number of people danced to what sounded like young people’s music, heedless of the early hour.
On the other side of the street a group of foreign tourists were happily shopping and asking “how much” and asking for discounts.
Han Seun-hyeon, a merchant wielding a calculator to show the prices to the foreign tourists, said that “last year the number of foreigners began increasing, so now they make up 60% of my customers.”
The Korean Wave began the process of Korea becoming more well-known, and one result is the increase in foreign tourists in the Hongdae area. “Club Day” and other aspects of youth culture are becoming known overseas and making Hongdae a destination for young foreign tourists.
However, some express worry over the increasing numbers of foreigners.
The Hongdae area once had so many prostitution-related establishments that police patrols were a common sight. In the past, American soldiers committed crimes there and were barred from entering clubs.
There is an increasing likelihood that foreign tourists seeking a place to have fun will commit crimes or be the targets of crime.
For example, on the 20th of last month a Japanese tourist visiting Korea was sexually assaulted in a guesthouse in the Seogyo-dong area and reported it to the Mapo Police Station. She said she had been assaulted by the owner of the guesthouse, with whom she had been drinking and who came into her room early in the morning.
The guesthouse owner said that “more foreigners want to experience Korean family life, so guesthouse owners will drink with guests as part of their business. So we drank together.”
With the increase in the number of foreigners there are now over 30 guesthouses in Hongdae but many of them neglect safety.
Another guesthouse owner said that “most guesthouses are dormitory-style, with four to six guests, so there is no way for crimes to be eliminated… with more than one person in a room it is hard to lock the door and many times the owners don’t live in the guesthouse.”
Even considering the selling point of guesthouses making it easy to meet new people, there must be careful regulations as these sorts of crimes can occur.
On the other hand, with the increasing number of foreign tourists Koreans are also vulnerable to crime and have been victimized.
In September of last year an American soldier met a high school student in Hongdae, then entered her goshitel room, sexually assaulted her, and stole her notebook computer. A group of Morroccans were also caught stealing cellphones from people in a Hongdae club.
Some merchants and pedestrians in Hongdae said that “in the media you hear that these cases are increasing” and they were upset about it.
A member of the Mapo Police Station said that “we are seeing more cases involving foreign tourists and we have been communicating with local merchants’ associations about them.”
“There are many foreigners in Hongdae, so there are also many crimes involving them and we have increased patrols, particularly on Fridays.”