Tourism is booming in the only town in South Korea with Pokémon Go
By SIOBHÁN O'GRADY | Foreign Policy | Published: July 14, 2016
Pokemon Go, the augmented reality game that has Americans wandering city streets looking like total maniacs as they use their smartphones to chase around virtual 3D characters, has popped up in some unexpected places.
The U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. The Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The September 11 memorial in place New York.
Now add Sokcho, South Korea to that list. The seaside town is the only one in the entire country where the app, which has not yet been released in South Korea, seems to work. According to the Associated Press, South Korean officials claim that a glitch in the gaming system accidentally categorized the town as being in North America, where the game was launched last week.
Whatever the reason, business-owners in Sochko, population 80,000, are certainly not complaining. According to South Korean news agency Yonghap, the small city had four times as many hotel rooms booked in the past few days than it had on the same days the week before.
Businesses have advertised special rewards for Pokémon players, and even the mayor is on board. He promised this week to increase the town's free wifi and even offer mobile charging stations so that players literally never have to stop, despite the fact the national government has still not decided whether or not the game will be available in South Korea. Top officials worry that allowing a foreign company to use mapping data could stoke further tensions with North Korea.
"For the city, it is not easy to promote what the government restricts," Lee Se-moon, an official at Sokcho city's tourism department, told the AP. "But it is a great help for the city's tourism because media continues to report about Sokcho and game manias are promoting Sokcho."