Let your smartphone be your guide around Korea

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Let your smartphone be your guide around Korea

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Traveler Kwon Hyuk-bin listens to audio from the “Unesco World Cultural Heritage” app at the Jongmyo Shrine in Seoul. By Shin Dong-yeon

Kwon Hyuk-bin is a travel nut but he had a big problem. He has no sense of direction. Still, he’s traveled all around the world without any guide books or maps.

“It’s all thanks to smartphone applications,” he said.

He awakened to the expanding value of travel apps four years ago when he was making “Tour Seoul,” which guides visitors around the Korean capital. He did some market research and realized that such applications were already being widely used by tourists overseas. It made him curious, so he hit the road by himself with only his smartphone to guide him.

And apps have proven to be trustworthy guides and pleasant travel partners.

In New York, he avoided paying too much for meals thanks to the application “Urban Spoon.” He never got lost in the maze-like alleys of Hong Kong thanks to “Discover Hong Kong City Walks,” which is put out by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

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When the JoongAng Ilbo contacted him for this article earlier this month, he took the reporter to the Jongmyo Shrine to showcase how the app “Unesco World Cultural Heritage” can enrich your experience there.

“Fire! There’s a fire at Jongmyo!”

A voice in the app re-enacts a fire that broke out during the reign of King Seonjo of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) at the historic site.

“A simple map application can teach you a lot about where you are and what kind of attractions you can check out around there,” Kwon said.

“It’s no longer destination-oriented traveling like it used to be. Now it’s me-oriented traveling.”

There are around 30 million smartphone users in Korea and many travel applications have sprouted up to cater to them. An app providing traffic information and lodging is one staple. “Seoul Toilet” helps you find public restrooms near wherever you are and “Jogakbo” suggests interesting traditional markets to check out.

“Wageul Wageul Camping Story” recommends the best campsites in the country while “Gosokdoro Gyotong Jeongbo,” a highway traffic information app, helps you avoid getting stuck on the freeway by providing you with real-time closed-circuit video images of the traffic situation.

“Travelo Matjip” will take you to 95 tteokboki matjip (or famous spicy rice cake snack eateries) in and around Seoul.

We’ve handpicked around 15 travel applications help you travel around Korea. They were chosen in terms of the quantity and quality of information, convenience, ingenuity and user assessments. All of them are free and all of them will be good partners on trips in Korea in this era of smart traveling.



All the info you need

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“Hamkkehaneun Yeohaeng,” left, and “Eunggeup Euiryo Jeongbo Jegong”


Lodging is some of the most important information when you hit the road. “Ttaengcheori Sukbak” (“Cheap Accommodations”) is a search application that helps you find rooms according to the type of trip you’re on and the region you’re going to, and the rooms are 25 percent to 60 percent cheaper than their original price. “Gosokdoro Gyotong Jeongbo” (“Highway Traffic Information”) will help you reduce your time on the road, while restaurant info is available through “I’m Real Matjip.” With “Eunggeup Euiryo Jeongbo Jegong,” made by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, you can find the nearest hospital or pharmacy. It also has first-aid instructions. “Hamkkehaneun Yeohaeng” (“Traveling Together”) provides travelers’ opinions on major tourist spots in Korea, with a focus on facilities for the disabled.



Taking to the nation’s trails

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“Gungnip Gongwon Sanhaeng Jeongbo,” left, and “Wageul Wageul Camping Story”


Smartphone applications are particularly useful for hikers, when you need to be traveling as lightly as possible.

“Gungnip Gongwon Sanhaeng Jeongbo” (“National Park Hiking Information”) provides information on hiking trails and park facilities. Twenty of the country’s national parks are broken down in the app, which is developed by the Korea National Park Service. The only park missing is Mount Mudeung, which was designated as a national park last year.



A modern look into the past

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Sigol Yeohaeng app, left, and TV Sok Yeohaeng app


Background information on historical sites provides a deeper understanding of the places you’re visiting, and many travel apps have lots of that kind of info to offer.

The “Smart Tour Guide” series is popular among parents seeking to teach their kids about the history behind their destinations. Many historical stories and anecdotes from all across Korea are provided in audio form as interviews, narration and dramas. Maps are also provided.

A variety of applications have been developed for specific locations such as Jongmyo, the Joseon Palaces, Andong Hahoe Maeul.

“Daehanminguk Guseokguseok” (every nook and cranny in the Republic of Korea) boasts a wealth of information provided by many travel writers. It’s an A to Z guide for tourism in the country, listing the best walking trails and the best traditional houses that offer accommodations.

By Na Won-jung [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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