A local writer says “Seoul, South Korea” has been transformed by the COVID-19 crisis! | FRIDAY DIGITAL

A local writer says “Seoul, South Korea” has been transformed by the COVID-19 crisis!

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The latest information on Seoul, Korea, the first stop on your after-Corona itinerary!

Resumption of Gimpo – Haneda flights by airlines, long lines at the Korean Embassy… Seoul, Korea is attracting attention as the first destination for after-corona travelers. Has Seoul changed so much in the past three years that Japanese did not go there? We asked a local writer to report on the latest information on food trends, inflation, the NO Japan movement, and other topics of interest.

After Corona’s first overseas travel destination, Seoul, Korea (Photo: Afro)

— (Photo: Aphro)

In June 2022, South Korea was exempted from the quarantine requirement for overseas visitors and resumed issuing general tourist visas. According to the Seoul Tourism Foundation, the number of visitors to the Seoul Tourism Information Center in the first half of this year increased 69% over the previous year, with foreign visitors, among others, increasing 2.8 times.

ZIPAIR, the third LCC, will begin daily service on the Tokyo (Narita)-Seoul (Incheon) route in July (photo: AFLO).

Myeong-dong, which has become a ghost town due to a sharp decline in tourists, has a new attraction!

Myeong-dong, the most well-known tourist spot for foreigners in Seoul, is the most expensive area in Korea. When restrictions on the entry of foreign tourists caused the liquid population to drop to 20% of its pre-Corona level, the highly popular restaurants, apparel stores, cosmetic stores, and hotels were forced out of business one after another.

The main street was littered with empty storefronts with “Tenant Wanted” signs posted, and the number of food stalls and souvenir stalls, which had been the symbol of the city, plummeted. For a time, the city was a ghost town, but since this spring, when the outbreak of the new strain of corona has settled down, it has gradually come back to life. In April this year, the largest Apple Store in Japan opened in Myeongdong, and the Myeongdong Central Store of fashion boutique A LAND, which closed two years ago, relocated to the main street and reopened for business.

MOLTO Italian Espresso Bar, where customers can enjoy espresso while looking out over Myeongdong Cathedral, has become a popular new landmark in Myeongdong since its opening in the fall of 2021. Since its opening in the fall of 2021, it has become a popular new spot in Myeongdong, visited by many domestic tourists and film creators.

Click here for MOLTO Italian Espresso Bar ‘s Instagram

Although many restaurants have regrettably closed, long-established restaurants such as Hadongkwan, a gomtang specialty restaurant with a 70-year history, and Myeongdong Kyoja, a kalguksu restaurant that won the Michelin Bib Gourmand award for six consecutive years, have survived the COVID-19 crisis and continue to be popular with local customers.

Sungsu-dong and Yeonnam-dong…Areas where the MZ generation gathers are recession-proof

In contrast to tourist areas such as Myeongdong, Namdaemun, and Gwanghwamun, areas such as Sungsu, Jiyeongchon, and Karoskil have suffered almost no damage from Corona over the past two years, and in fact, many stores have seen their sales increase. In particular, the area from Sungsu Station to Seoul Forest Station, where fashionable cafes and restaurants are concentrated, is so popular that it is difficult to find vacant stores. Yeonnam-dong, Iksundong, andMangwon-dong are also attracting attention as “SNS mecca” favored by the digital native MZ generation.

Iksundong is a mix of traditional buildings and SNS-worthy boutiques and restaurants (photo: Afro).

Vacant stores have been turned into unmanned “self-serve photo studios.

As stores are closing one after another, unmanned self-photo zones using vacant tenants are on the rise. These photo booths are popular among people in their teens and 20s, as they allow customers to have their photos taken by a machine in the same way as a purikura (photo booth), and the price is as low as 4,000 won (approximately 420 yen). What makes it different from purikura is that you can take pictures at your own timing with a remote-controlled shutter, and there is a wide variety of accessories, backgrounds, and costumes that can be used free of charge. Various styles of photo studios have appeared, including stores equipped with hair dryers and powder rooms.

A “self-serve photo studio” with a wide variety of accessories, backgrounds, and costumes that can be used free of charge

New department store opens in Yeouido.

The Hyundai Department Store in Yeouido, which opened in February 2021, is attracting attention as a new landmark. It is the largest department store in Seoul and houses flagship stores of fashion brands, cosmetic stores, a food hall, and a large food court. Designed by the late British architect Richard Rogers, the store’s exterior, which utilizes traditional Korean architectural styles, and its interior, which is an urban oasis, are the talk of the town.

THE HYUNDAI SEOUL, a modern department store that is attracting attention for its artistic space (from official website)

For the official website of THE HYUNDAI SEOUL, click here.

Prices continue to rise. Consumer Price Index (CPI) up 6% from the previous year

Inflation continues to rise in South Korea, with the consumer price index (CPI) rising 6% year-on-year in June of this year. This was the highest level since 1998, the year of the Asian currency crisis.

The basic fare for the Seoul Metro is 1,350 won (about 141 yen), and transportation costs are still inexpensive, but prices are rising faster than in Japan, and the yen is currently weaker than the won. Comparing products available in both Japan and Korea, a Häagen-Dazs mini cup vanilla flavor is priced at 4,800 won (about 500 yen; 319 yen in Japan). Starbucks Café Mocha Tall size is priced at 5,500 won (approx. 578 yen, 495 yen in Japan). The price is undeniably high.

Restaurants are also shrink-flationary, discontinuing or reducing the amount of kimchi, sanchu (Korean pickles), namul (Korean pickles), and other items that used to be free refills.

The regular price of a Häagen-Dazs mini cup vanilla flavor is 4,800 won (about 500 yen; in Japan it is 319 yen)! In Japan, it costs 319 yen)!

15,000 yen “high-end burgers” and “drama sponsored restaurants” …… hamburger stores are on the rise.

Not to be outdone by the COVID-19 crisis and rising prices, the number of hamburger stores continues to increase one after another. In January this year, the first Asian burger restaurant, GORDON RAMSAY burger, run by the famous Scottish chef Gordon Ramsay, opened in Lotte World Tower in Jamsil, Seoul. The restaurant has been attracting attention for its high-end burgers, including its signature menu item, the Hell’s Kitchen Burger (31,000 won = 3,256 yen), and the 1966 Burger (140,000 won = 14,705 yen), named after Gordon Ramsay’s year of birth.

Then, in May of this year, “Good stuff eatery,” known as a favorite of former President Barack Obama, appeared in the Gangnam area. The secret behind the restaurant’s popularity is its bright green, photo-worthy interior, and its burgers are made with pesticide-free vegetables grown on the restaurant’s mini-farm. In addition, Super Duper from San Francisco and Five Guys Burgers and Fries from LA, known as one of the top three burgers in the U.S., are scheduled to open in Seoul in the near future.

Domestic hamburger brands are also doing well. EGG DROP, which specializes in scrambled egg burgers and sandwiches, has gained recognition through product placement in dramas such as the “The Smart Doctor’s Life” series, and in the three years since the first store opened in 2017, the number of stores nationwide has surpassed 250. In the three years since the first store opened in 2017, the number of stores has surpassed 250 nationwide.

GFFG HOSPITALITY, which made the donut cafe a hit, also operates the hamburger store and has opened stores in the Itaewon area, major areas in the metropolitan area, and Jeju Island. In addition, the toast specialty restaurant , which is popular among tourists, opened its first store in Sinsa Station in the summer of 2021, and the number of stores is steadily increasing.

Click here for DOWNTOWNER ‘s Instagram

Choco mint flavor continues to boom! Collaboration products are coming one after another!

Choco mint flavor continues to be popular in cakes, macaroons, ice cream, drinks, and other sweets. <Familiar products such as Choco Pie Emotion, Choco Seong Yi (Mushroom), andJoonday (Korean shochu ) are also available in limited quantities in chocolate mint flavor.

In early July, Kentucky Fried Ch icken introduced a chocolate mint flavored dipping sauce. This is a limited menu item created in collaboration with the delivery app “Delivery Nation,” which uses mint as its brand color, and is a new product “by the Minchodan (= “Choco Mint Party” in Japan), , for the Minchodan.

Kentucky’s chocolate mint flavor sauce! (from official Instagram)

Japan is the No. 1 country Koreans want to visit

UNIQLO has become a major target of the boycott campaign against Japanese products that began in July 2019, and in the wake of the spread of the new coronavirus, the Myeongdong Central Store, the largest store in South Korea, will close on January 31, 2021. By 2021, more than 50 UNIQLO stores in South Korea will have closed, as well as all three GU stores under the UNIQLO umbrella.

However, since the time of the boycott, many people have said, “I really want to go into a UNIQLO,” or “I want to go to Japan, but I can’t because of what people around me think,” giving the strong impression that they avoid Japanese products and travel to Japan due to peer pressure rather than hatred of Japan.

In the COVID-19 crisis, there was a boom in “Japan that can be visited without a passport,” including ” Nijimori Studio ” (Dongducheon, Gyeonggi-do), a recreation of a hot spring resort and inn, and ” Tomoya Hotel & Ryokan( Geoje, Gyeongsangnam-do), where all rooms have hinoki cypress baths.

It is like an original Japanese landscape… (from the official website of “Nijimori Studio & Ryokan”)
HP of a long-established Japanese hot spring inn! (From the official website of Tomonoya)

In the “Countries I want to visit within a year” survey released by credit card company VISA in July of this year, Japan ranked first with 20.5% of the respondents. The second place was followed by Vietnam (9.7%), Thailand (8.2%), the U.S. (6.5%), and Singapore (5.2%).

The “taxi shortage” is becoming more serious. Cab Shortage” is becoming more serious.

Over the past two years, the number of corporate cab drivers has decreased by more than 20,000 compared to pre-Corona levels, as they have switched to home delivery drivers and agency drivers. As a result, the cab shortage has become serious, and even large model cabs, which charge higher rates than regular cabs, are hard to find late at night. Even if you use a taxi-dispatch application such as Kakao Taxi, you often cannot get a taxi, so be sure to check the last train time of the subway and try to go sightseeing within walking distance from your hotel at night.

For more information on travel to South Korea, please refer to the ” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan’s website on travel restrictions for Japanese nationals and foreigners traveling from Japan to South Korea”.

  • Interview and text Fujita Reiko

    Freelance writer and Korean translator. Born in Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture. After graduating from the Department of Sociology, Faculty of Letters, Chuo University, she worked in the editorial department of a practical book, a Korean entertainment magazine, and a medical book, and has been living in Korea since 2009. He has translated "I pretended to be okay even though I was not okay" (written by Kulbaeu, published by Diamond Inc.), "Nothing Happened to Me, Just Me" (written by Han Solhee, published by Kinema Junpo),
    and "All My Heart's Conflicts Are My Own.
    The struggles of the heart are all on my side. Freud's Teachings on Finding and Healing Your True Self" by Chung Do On, published by Diamond Inc.

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