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Chinese classes crammed in S.Korea as Chinese tourism booms

中国游客猛增 韩国人拼命学中文.jpg

The Chinese are traveling abroad in numbers never seen before, and it's felt strongly in South Korea, which finds itself scrambling to keep up with an estimated 4 million Chinese tourists a year.


In Myeongdong, Seoul's bustling, pedestrian-only main street for shopping, the common sounds you hear — besides blaring pop music from storefronts — are of a language foreign to Koreans: Mandarin Chinese.


A number of Chinese tourists say they're from Hangzhou, in southeastern China, and that they came to Korea for one main reason: shoppong.


In 2014, Chinese residents visited South Korea more than any other foreign country. And they are spending in huge numbers anywhere they go. The World Bank's numbers show Chinese travelers spent $100 billion overseas in 2012, doubling what they spent just two years before that.


South Korean businesses want those tourism dollars, so companies here, particularly makeup companies, are sending their salesfolk back to school. Hagwons, or private cram schools, are filling up with skin care salespeople, whose bosses are paying for them to learn how to cater to Chinese customers through language.


Soh Bor-am teaches eight one-hour classes of Mandarin per day.


"My mother used to say that even if you're selling hoddok, which is a kind of cake in Namdaemun markets, you have to know how to sell it in Chinese. And I find it very surprising that no matter which level of society you're in, no matter what your job is, you're expected to know this language," Soh says.



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