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Delivering Smiles to Foreigners
By Yang Se-young  |  worldyang@hanyang.ac.kr
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[323호] 승인 2014.09.01  
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    The total number of foreigners visiting South Korea has increased significantly during the last ten years. According to the statistics provided by Statistics Korea, last year, in 2013, about 12,176 foreigners have visited South Korea. This is more than twice the number of foreign visitors in 2004, which was recorded to be approximately 5,818. To meet and greet these visitors, Smile Korea, where university students actively participate as a publicity ambassadors for South Korea, was established under Visit Korea Committee, organized during the Korea Visit Year in 2010 through 2012.
    Just like its slogan, “Making together South Korea a place where people want to visit again,” Smile Korea aims to stir up a even more hospitable spirit towards foreign visitors mainly by providing welcoming services. The members of Smile Korea usually work in teams, planning events which encourage foreign visitors to participate. These Smile Korea members can be spotted around Seoul, especially in places where foreigners visit the most, such as Itaewon, Insa-dong and Bukchon Hanok Village.

Seo Hong-ryeol
- Junior, Division of Business Administration of Hanyang University

Our Smile Korea team once held an event called “Tell Us Your Story” at Yeongdeungpo Times Square, asking Korean passer-bys to share their experiences of being treated nicely by people when they were traveling abroad or even in domestic places. Our intention was to remind people of how they were treated with hospitality when they were traveling abroad, and encourage them to treat foreign visitors in Korea the same way. However, the activity also motivated me toward my dream of becoming a flight attendant, a job where I should serve many foreign travelers. Through listening to people’s travel experiences, I learned how I should treat foreign visitors.

Kim Jung-hyun
- Sophomore, Major in Journalism and Mass Communication of Hanyang University

As a part of Smile Korea activities, we once went to Myeong-dong and helped the foreign visitors write their names in Hangeul on a card embroidered with Korean traditional patterns. Many foreigners were very enthusiastic about it and asked us to write their names in Korean. I noticed that they especially liked the Korean letter “ㅎ”, saying it looks like a snow man. I previously felt uncomfortable toward foreigners since they speak different language from us, but I realized through this activity that they want to communicate more with us and learn things from us. From then on, I approach them first instead of just standing still awkwardly.

Song Ji-soo
- Junior, Department of English Language and Literature of Konkuk University

We planned an event in Itaewon where we encouraged foreign people to participate in Korean traditional games such as Jae-ki-cha-gi, a game which determines the winner by counting how many times a person kicks Jae-ki without it touching the ground, and Ttakji-chigi, which refers to a game of slap-match. We also handed out traditional Korean snacks to people. The event was a lot of fun, and even Korean people have participated in the game. I had fun myself during the event, as I could meet a lot of foreigners without any pressure.

Oh Ji-won
- Junior, Department of English Language and Literature of Konkuk University

Smile Korea also runs a mentoring program for foreign exchange students, and I had been a mentor of four Vietnam students. The mentee and I met several times a month and talked about what the mentee were uncomfortable of, and I thought about how I could help them with their problems living here. I also tried to introduce things the mentees had not experienced before, like taking them to go ice-skating in the ice rink in Lotte World, as Vietnam is a hot country. They liked Korea more than I thought, and I was glad that I could give them a positive image of Korea.


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