Store Wars: Line vs. Kakao

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Before going to Korea, I told my family that I need to have a picture with that “Big-Brown-Teddy” in Myeong-dong. Yes, that was Brown from LINE and I won’t go home without having a picture with it. Also, I told myself that I need to buy that “Pink-Thingy” from KAKAO for my best friend. Yes, that was Apeach- (Jin Young for Agases).

I wasn’t really a “fan” of these applications, as I don’t use it and didn’t know the names of the characters. But seeing their stores in almost every place in Korea, I finally realized what I was missing out.

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LINE and KAKAO characters are both very popular in Korea. These characters have been featured in various cosmetic items, making them as covers for their hand cream, cushion and even face mask. And, it doesn’t end there!

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Coming to LINE STORE in Myeong-dong, I was in awe. The store itself looked like an amusement park, the only thing missing are the rides! Brown, the LINE bear, was in the middle of the store entrance- and people would line up just to get a picture with him!

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LINE stationary items, essentials, toys and accessories were displayed at the ground floor. There was even a LINE cafe together with it! At the second floor, more LINE characters were waiting to take a photo! They were all so cute, I had to stay there for a long time. Displayed were LINE shirts, hoodies, and various apparels.

Next, the KAKAO store.

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Coming to COEX mall, I accidentally bumped into KAKAO store. There’s actually not much difference between KAKAO and LINE store items but, regarding their “ambiance”, this particular KAKAO branch was rather a “typical” one.

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KAKAO only had one floor in COEX and it was filled with people admiring the cuteness of these characters. The cashier was also having a great time! (You know what I mean ^^)

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Majority of KAKAO’s items though were stuff toys- of the different “emotions” of their characters.

So, with this, who won the “store wars”?

Both of them!

Of course it really depends on which app are you most familiar with. But the fact that both LINE and KAKAO jumped out from that mobile application barrier, turning them into one of Korea’s most popular characters where people around the world can recognize, makes them both successful and worth visiting when you come to Korea.

Written Krew Member Maxx Chua

(위) Arii Hills: Skywalk, Zipline & the View

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During my free time in Korea, I accidentally browsed through a Korean article about Arii Hills: Byeongbangchi Skywalk located in Jeong Seon, Gangwon-do. I didn’t know anything about Korea having a “skywalk” and was pretty excited about it. I told my mom about this and, surprisingly, she agreed to go — immediately, the next day! My mom even studied the route and intercity bus schedules. Who’s a Korean fan now, mom?

So here’s how we went:

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We took the bus from Dong Seoul bus terminal to Jeongseon intercity bus terminal. It costs about 19,300 won each person.

Printed on the ticket is your destination, time and date of departure, platform number, and seat number but you can actually just sit anywhere!

Arriving at Jeongseon terminal, you can take the Arii Hills resort shuttle bus or take a taxi — we did the latter because patience was not one of our “virtues”.

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We finally arrived at Byeongbangchi Skywalk, and tickets were worth 1,000 to 2,000 won per person, depending on age. Before entering the skywalk, we had to cover our shoes with blue “shoe-clothes” to protect the tempered glass we were going to walk on.

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As we enter the skywalk, it actually felt more like an “extended balcony”. Yup, it’s a “U” shaped structure and according to their website, it only measures 11m long! We were a bit disappointed and my mom was a little “mad” but, the view was priceless- and that calmed my mom. If you’ve gone to Cebu’s Crown Regency skywalk, that’s way more thrilling and that’s what a “skyway” should be. Regardless though, the experience was still worth it.

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Unfortunately, after spending about 10 minutes on that “balcony” (I’m sorry), my mom was still not satisfied with “just-the-view”. She told me, “Take the zipline! That way our four hour ride would pay off”. I was taken a back and I literally said, “What? I’m not yet ready!!”

If you’ve rode a zipline before, you probably know that it takes about 10 minutes to decide whether to go or not, another 10 minutes in hesitating to buy the ticket and 20 minutes to sync-in your mental, physical and overall “body system” that you’re going on that ride! Not to mention an extra 5 minutes for prayer and confession!

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Eventually, after all that “chaos,” I decided to go.

Here’s the fun part! I was supposed to ride alone and was scheduled to ride at 1:50 pm. However, the shuttle which was going to fetch me after the zipline, will arrive at 2:30 pm. So, if ever, I had to wait for 37 minutes since the ride only lasts 3 minutes. My mom was hesitant with this so, guess what, my family joined me in zip-lining! Now I know those scaredy cats love me more than their fears. “#Grateful”

The Arii Hills Zipline costs 40,000 won per person. There are four zipline stations and all three of us rode on the same time! This way, you get to enjoy it with your family!

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You’ll be sitting on a “swing” type of chair and you’ll be riding together with your bags. The ahjussi will give you instructions- in Korean, but, if you can’t understand just remember, “pictures are worth a thousand words“! So, you’ll get it!

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Whoooosh!

“Ahhhh”

At first, you’ll feel the butterflies in your stomach and that cold rush of the wind! After a while though, I gently opened my eyes and, wow, you’ll be amazed of the beautiful scenery! Riding that zipline, I felt so “stressed-free” and definitely felt blessed! I couldn’t say anything else but, “Thank you, Lord.”

While riding the zipline, don’t shout too much because someone would be taking your picture from below! You don’t want that “perfect-O” from your mouth! Laugh at me now.

Going to Arii Hills, taking the skywalk, enjoying the zipline and loving the scenery, was definitely a great way to see the other side of Korea! Indeed it was a great opportunity for us to bond as a family, face our fears and discover the hidden treasures of Jeongseon, Gangwon-do. You should go too!

By the way, did you get the blog title? Arii Arii”. ^^

Written by Krew member Max Chua

Famous places to visit in Gapyeong

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Gapyeong is one of the places that tourist shouldn’t miss when visiting Korea. It is a small town located in Gyeonggi-do which is also a perfect romantic place to visit for couples.

For commuters and tourist who wants to visit Gapyeong, you can go there either by taking a train, bus or joining a group tour. This April of 2016, my family and I decided to visit two of the most famous places in Gapyeong because my mom is a fan of the famous tv drama “Winter Sonata”, while my sister and I love “My love from another star” drama. So we want to see and experience the place like we’re filming a real tv drama. lol

Anyway for those who are wondering if you can travel all the places in Gapyeong in one day. Well, the answer is definitely Yes! We were able to visit the two places in just one day. So here’s the two famous places to visit in Gapyeong:

  1. Namiseom or Nami Island is a half moon-shaped island where the grave of the late General Nami is laid. It is located along the direction of Chuncheon where people have no other option either to ride a ferry or zipline. Zip line is a little expensive than riding a boat but if you want to experience an adventure and if you don’t want to take the ferry why not try to ride a zip line to the Island. I also want to try it but I still can’t face my fear of heights so we rode the ferry and it was also fun because you can meet a lot of tourists and you get to see the sceneries around the island. But before you ride the ferry, you have to buy a ticket which costs 10,000 won for adults  while 8,000 won for the discounted rate – if I’m not mistaken.dscf2114dscf2117

As we landed in Nami, we were amazed of how it was build and taken care of. The trees are lined along the whole area and it is perfect for camping. If you are with your “special someone”, this is the right time to create sweet memories together. You can rent a bike and roam the whole island but if you are going here with your family like me, well appreciate every moment and take a lot of family pictures as remembrance! You can also have your picnic here and spent hours walking around the island, see the squirrels, wish on the paper and hang it along with the other papers and most of all visit the places in the island where the scenes in “Winter Sonata” was filmed.

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(The bridge where the actors had their first kiss)

The best time to visit Nami Island is during the season of Summer and Autumn but we went there during April so most of the trees doesn’t have leaves yet and the whole place is covered with dried leaves. Still, we find it beautiful so we took advantage of the mood and place and took some Instagram-worthy  pictures.

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  1. Petite France is also one of the famous place in Gapyeong because it is also known as a French cultural village with a concept of “Little Prince.” It is located along the direction on Naminara Island. For the drama lovers like me, this place was featured in the TV drama ‘Beethoven Virus’, ‘Secret Garden’ and the international renowned drama ‘My love from the Star’. Being there is like taking you to France with colorful French style buildings and surroundings. There are a lot of things to do here like eating in the restaurants inside where French foods are served, picture-taking, and exploring the museums or displays inside and also better watch and enjoy the marionette experience with enticing musical background and cute puppets.

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(Here’s what you can see before entering Petite France)

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(and what caught my attention are these things that are displayed outside that makes me want to buy the goose but I think they’re not for sale.)

And that ends our one-day trip to Gapyeong last April. Korea is one of the country that I always want to visit and explore. I’ve become more in love of this beautiful culture-rich country. The next time that I will visit here, I’ll make sure that it will be in the Autumn Season together with my “special someone” and will try to ride the zipline to Nami Island and make sure to experience everything that Korea has to offer. Hope you enjoy reading my experience in Gapyeong!

Written by Krew Member Nikhie Villacorta

Learn to Ski: Winter Skiing in Yongpyong Ski Resort

Last year, we traveled to Korea during Winter season to see how beautiful the country is when filled with fluffy snow. So, we availed the Winter Tour package to Korea on the travel agency that we’ve used to get our tour packages and skiing in Yongpyong Ski Resort was part of our itinerary.

Yongpyong Ski Resort is where international competitions are held and which is also considered as one of the most popular ski resort in Korea. Winter in Korea will make you tremble with cold but the experience of the cold breeze, thick snow and winter activities is incomparable and unforgettable.

As we reached the Yongpyong Ski Resort, I was amazed of how beautiful the land is covered with thick and white snow plus the busy people who are concentrating and enjoy skiing. Imagine the 250 centimeters scale resort filled with snow? Amazing isn’t it? How grateful we are that God created those beautiful sceneries for us to enjoy and appreciate.

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Moving on, before we start to ski, we have to borrow equipment and proper ski clothes in order for us to proceed and start skiing. Yay! First, we have to wear the ski clothes before we wear the shoes. Make sure that you know and get your size accurately because the boots should properly fit you in order to avoid blisters in your feet. Do not forget to wear ski socks also to protect your feet. After wearing the boots, adjust and buckle them up to your skiing tension then flex it forward and backward. Below is a photo on how I wear the boots which took me almost 30 minutes. Literally, 30 minutes. It’s not easy because your safety also depends on how you buckle and wear your boots.

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Next, wear your goggles to protect your eyes from snow blindness. I was shocked knowing that snow can cause blindness so I didn’t remove the goggles until I finished skiing. Also, don’t forget to wear a hat, scarf and ski gloves because you won’t be able to handle the cold. Promise.  It may be hassle at first but when you’re in the snow and skiing already, you’ll forget everything and you’ll be filled with happiness. I swear!

So everything is ready, all checked and now I’m ready to ski!

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Skiing is not easy at first, but don’t worry there are instructors in the site that can teach you the basics of skiing. Of course, you have to pay for the lessons but swear – it’s worth it as far as I saw those people availed skiing lessons.

The most important thing to remember in skiing is: Do not be afraid to stand up when you fall and fail. There’s always time to stand up and prove that you can still do it if you are just willing to dedicate yourself in skiing.

Anyways, here’s the 5 things that I will teach you to enjoy skiing.

  1. How to walk in snow with those boots on. Once you’ve learned them, woah it feels like you’re a pro already. To walk in the snow, you must hold the poles and squeeze the skis on your other hand to balance while walking. When going up the slope, you just have to kick in the tip of the boots unto the snow and start walking; same as while going down the slope, you just have to kick the heels of the boots first before walking.
  2. How to insert the boots in the ski. Find a place where there is snow and the surface is flat. Place your skis parallel on the floor. Your boots should not have any snow under it so you must need your pole to tap your boots then scrape your boots unto the ski. You must insert the tip of the boots first then followed by your heel and when you hear the “click”, it means your boots are locked already and you’re good to go.
  3. How to slide on the snow. To slide on the snow, stand as much as you can bend your knees a little and look straight to wear you are going. Do not look down because it might lose your balance. Use your poles to slide in the snow. Just relax and don’t panic when you’re already sliding. You can use your pole when you want to stop from sliding. Just be careful.
  4. How to stand up when you fall. If you fall from skiing, do not worry. You may find it difficult but when you already know how to get up, you’ll be used to it. Whatever position you are after falling, always position yourself on one side. Then use your uphill arm or your pole to push yourself up and stay first in a crouched position before standing up straight in order for you not to lose balance again.
  5. How to take the boots off in the ski. You will find this easy unlike inserting the boots in the ski. Just stand up straight, hold your pole and use it to push down the level that is located on your heel. Then just repeat it on the other side. Just always remember watch out your balance while removing it because you can still fall while doing this.

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And that’s the 5 basic things that I learned during my skiing experience in Yongpyong Ski Resort last year. Hope this 5 simple tips can make your ski experience worth it and unforgettable. If you want an exciting and challenging trip during the winter, I recommend you to try and experience Skiing in Korea and promise you’ll never forget that experience!

Written by Krew Member Nikhie Villacorta

The road to stardom: K STAR ROAD

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Mom: Max, who’s that?

*someone in black sando was walking to his car.

Me:  Who?

Mom: That guy! *pointing to the guy in black

*guy turns around

Me: IT’S JYP!

Going to Korea wouldn’t be complete without going to at least one Entertainment company – well, for a K-Pop fan. Whether it’s SM Entertainment, JYP, FNC or any other.

But, where do you start? How will you meet Jackson Wang, hand your gift to Amber or even just say “Hi” to [Insert name of your bias]? Oettoke?!

Don’t fret, Gangnam-gu’s got you covered with K-Star road.

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Just to give you a bit of a background, K-Star road was introduced last March 2015. It’s a special project of Gangnam-gu, aiming to reach people, particularly K-Pop fans of all ages. They also collaborated with Ducobi, a local artist, for the Gangnamdol, which you will pass by once you arrive there.

To go to K-Star road, follow this: Whichever station you’re coming from, transfer to the Wangsimni: Bundang Line (KORAIL) going to Apgujeong Rodeo, Exit2. Go up the stairs and tada, K-Star road.

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I was just plaIMG_4695nning to go to JYP and I didn’t really know about K-Star road, until I arrive there. I thought going to entertainment companies was hard but, you’ll be surprised on how detailed they laid out the location of each entertainment company. No wonder there are a lot of sasaengs, kidding. But, in this way, it helps you roam around Gangnam-gu without any hassle of asking people.

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So, we, I was with my mom, followed the map, which was posted everywhere, and finally we arrived at JYP. It felt surreal because I honestly accepted the fact that I won’t be able to go there but, turns out I did. All I wanted was a picture with the JYP logo then we could go home. I was so excited that I was almost hit by a car! The guard there was saying, “saram saram”. Whoops, my bad. Anyway, we waited a couple of minutes and was fortunate enough to see JYP, who looked exactly like his album cover in “Who’s Your Mama” and Day 6 Jae and Dowoon.

 

Unfortunately, because we had to go back to our hotel, we weren’t able to go to all of the entertainment companies in Gangnam-gu.

Walking in K-Star road, even when you’re a little lost, is a great-fun-amazing experience. Just imagine your favorite idols walking in those streets, buying some snacks from the convenient store you just came into and, who knows, bumping into them!

K-star road, is a definitely a road worth taking.

Written by Krew Member Max Chua

Laugh Out Loud: Embarrassing moments in Korea.

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My first visit to Korea was definitely a blast. I went to my favorite K hotspots, bought a lot of cutie patootie stuffs and met great people. But, my trip wouldn’t be complete without my funny, rather embarrassing, moments with some locals. So, here goes my shame.

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  1. I left my passport with ajumma.

Going to Korea, smelling the Seoul air and finally proving to myself that dreams do come true- I’m pretty excited about entering the country I love.

But, before anything else though, of course, we all have to pass the airport immigration.

So I lined up, still feeling that I was dreaming, and after a few minutes, my turn finally comes. I was a bit nervous, who wouldn’t be, so I just tried to comfort myself by smiling at the ajumma while saying “Annyeonghaseyo“. She just nodded with a “less-than-half” smile. Well, it’s immigration after all- #serious.

She asks for my passport, I hand it in, and points to the camera to take a picture of me. Afterwards, ajumma asks me to put my fingers on this “machine” to get my fingerprints. The whole time I was just smiling but, deep inside I was a bit scared.

You know that feeling when you know your innocent but, when “checking” time comes you just feel guilty all of a sudden without any apparent reason- yes, that’s what I felt.

Then here comes the funny part, ajumma tells me that it’s already “done”. I smile to her and leave. She calls me and says, “Hey Hey” and I was thinking, “What did I do wrong?”. Turns out, I left my passport with her. I just laughed and said “Sorry, sorry, excited“. Then she, finally, smiled back.

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  1. I invented the price of jjampong.

So, after walking for hours in Myeong-dong, we were all so hungry. We stopped at this Chinese, but still Korean, restaurant for a hot bowl of jjampong and jjajangmyeon. I know how to read hanguel but, being in an “all-hangeul-menu” resto, it took me a while to read them. I finally “saw” the word jjampong and I pointed to it while saying, “Jjampong hana, Jjajangmyeon hana”. The owner was just looking at me and he keeps on saying that they don’t sell it there. I looked at the menu again, rubbed my eyes to confirm what I read and true enough, they have jjampong and jajangmyeon, I was a bit irritated because I know I read it right! Come on, that’s the only thing I can say in Korean and you’re telling me I’m wrong? Ouch. So, I said it again to him and for some reason, he understood. Say what now? Yeah, I didn’t get what happened to.

So here he goes with the bowls, because we asked for a take-out, and we’re about to pay the bill. I asked, “Eolmayeyo?” and I knew I heard “2,000W”. I boldly told my mom the price, with my brother’s eyebrows going up- doubting what I said. I was so prideful that I said it again “2000W daw!”

The owner laughed at me and told me, “No, 9,000 W”. I misheard “9 (gu)” with “2 (i)”. So shameful. We left the resto with my family laughing at me together with the owner. Well, for two big bowls of noodles and getting it for eighty-eight (88) pesos? Anyway.

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  1. My mom barked for the dog cafe – literally.

Enough with my embarrassments, how about hearing my mom’s. PS: I asked permission to share this. Coming from an eight hour ride from Byeongbangchi, a province in Korea, we were all tired. We planned to go to the dog cafe but, unfortunately I took a screenshot of the wrong dog cafe. We were supposed to go to “Bau House”, the one in Hongdae, but we went to Gangnam’s instead. I didn’t know this before so, don’t blame me please. Because I was pretty exhausted from the eight hour ride, all my Korean ran out. So, I told my mom, it was her turn to ask people with directions.

At Gangnam station, we went in the information office and she asked a personnel where the dog cafe is.

Mom: “Hi. Where is the dog cafe?”

Ajussi: “Neh?”

Mom: “Dog cafe? You don’t know the dog cafe?”

Ajussi: *just stares because he doesn’t understand

Mom: “Dog cafe? ‘arf arf’ café?”

Oh my gosh. We all laughed our hearts out when she said that. Even ajussi! He actually understood what we meant when she “barked”! So it helped, sorry for the word choice mom.

Definitely, our Korea trip wouldn’t be this fun without these embarrassing moments. I still have a lot of LOL moments but, for now this is all I can share.

Do you have any funny moments in Korea? Share it with us by commenting below.

Written by Max Chua

Useful Apps You Need When You Visit Korea

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Planning a trip to South Korea?

In a world where almost everything relies on technology, let me teach you how to maximize the use of your smartphone and internet on your next trip to South Korea. Check out below the list of phone applications that will surely help you make the best out of your trip.

  1. Visit Korea App / iTourSeoul

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Visit Korea is the official app created by Korea Tourism Organization. This app contains themed travels and individual information about attractions you can visit. If you’re going to organize your itinerary or have no idea where you really want to go, this app can help you.

Not only that, there’s also list of hotels, shopping areas, restaurants, and transportation information you can rely on – plus it is possible for you to have discount coupons for all of these. Just check the dates where the coupon is applicable.

iTourSeoul has the same qualities as Visit Korea App but as its name implies, it only has information about Seoul. This might be a better app for you if you’re only planning to stay in Seoul.

Download them at:

a) Visit Korea

Play Store (Android) 

App Store (iPhone)

b) iTourSeoul

Play Store (Android)

App Store (iPhone)

  1. Naver Map / Naver Korean Dictionary & Translate App

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Rather than Google Map, this app is more detailed when it comes to accurately knowing where you are and identify the best way you can take in order to get to your destination.

You need to learn basic Korean If you’re going to use this app. So, if you’re not willing to learn the basics, Google Map is your second choice.

Together with this app, Naver Korean Dictionary & Translate App also comes in handy. The translation is much better than Google translate and you will easily spot where to input the characters and translate them into English. The translated sentences or phrases might not be the exact meaning but you will still get the idea about what it is all about.

Download them at:

a) Naver Map

Play Store (Android)

App Store (iPhone)

b) Naver Korean Dictionary & Translate App

Play Store (Android)

App Store (iPhone)

  1. Subway/ BusApp

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Once you open Subway app, you might be overwhelmed by the number of routes and destinations where you can go. At first, I also got dizzy just by looking at their system but as I plot the stations where we are headed for our trip, this app really helped a lot.

Just input where you are coming from and where you want to go, this app will give you the fastest way to go to your destination.

In the same way, BusApp also works that way. However, at the moment they are still working on the English version. But if you’re adept at Korean language then this will help you track of the time when the bus will arrive and depart from the station.

Download them at:

a) Subway App

Play Store (Android)

App Store (iPhone)

b) Bus App

Play Store (Android)

App Store (iPhone)

  1. Coursera

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As I mentioned earlier, Naver Map requires you to be familiar with basic Korean. But if you do not have the capacity to take formal courses, Coursera is your answer.

I’m currently registered on Basic Korean Language class and will start learning how to converse in Korean starting October 3. You can register through your desktop, but it’s also available in both iPhone and Android.

What’s the benefit?

Right now I can read Hangul characters but I’m still on my way to fully understand the words. My online professor from Yonsei University prepares course videos and gauge what I learn through a short exam (in the 1st week every exam has 5 items). Usually, a lesson takes 9-11 minutes (a very short time for you to learn Korean every day).

I’m really having fun learning Korean and it’s for FREE! I also downloaded our lessons. It might be helpful for you to take notes as she explains everything.

What more can I wish for? I hope you try the app as well. There are also other free courses available from distinguished universities.

You can download it at:

Play Store (Android)

App Store (iPhone)

  1. KORLINK

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I think almost everyone who attempted to understand Korean know the website talktomeinkorean.com.

If you want to have conversational skills in the Korean language, this is the app for you. There are free podcasts and pdfs you can review to practice Korean.

You can download it at:

Play Store (Android)

App Store (iPhone)

  1. Audio Korea (Smart Tour)

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You can download audio tour guides beforehand so that when you reach the attractions you might want to hear more information about them. Absolutely recommended for those who are not going to pay for any tour guides. The audio contains history, meaning, and stories about the origin of each attraction.

You can download it at:

Play Store (Android)

App Store (iPhone)

  1. Jeju Pass / Seoul Pass

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Both of these apps contain discounted prices on tourist attractions. Of course, you have to research to compare prices and get the best offer they have. These two are ideal apps for those who do not want to wait in long lines or wonder if tickets are available on their desired destination.

The two apps are divided into 5 categories: amusement park, activities, entertainment, city tour, and museums. All of their available tickets are to be purchased online – no hassle! You can also book a hotel through these apps if you want and download their coupons.

Download them at:

a) Jeju Pass

Play Store (Android)

App Store (iPhone)

b) Seoul Pass

Play Store (Android)

App Store (iPhone)

  1. Yogiyo/ Mangoplate

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Yogiyo lets you order your food online. However, you have to understand basic Korean language or if you are going to stay at a hotel or guesthouse, you can ask them to assist you. You might be wondering how you will know what you want to order. Since you are a tourist there, you only have two options. One is you already have a preferred food, you only have to tell it to the one who will help you. Or you are the kind of tourist who wants to explore food but have no idea what to order.

If you’re the second type of person, yogiyo shows you the picture of food and from there, you might get an idea what you are craving for. Still, if you can’t decide, just ask for a recommendation or research possible eats ahead of time.

On the other hand MangoPlate helps you find the best restaurants in South Korea. It is available in both English and Korean so you won’t have a hard time navigating in the app. There are ratings regarding the food for each restaurant so you will have an idea if a place is worth trying or you can just find another restaurant you can eat at.

Download it at:

Play Store (Android)

App Store (iPhone) 

I hope you all find time to check out the 13 apps. It might look like it’s too many but trust me, I already chose the best apps for you to use and there are so much more out there you can still explore on your iPhone or Android.

Written by Krew Member Jean Singian