Cheap package tours are giving Koreans a bad reputation abroad as they are noisily herded through the attractions.
More than 30 million Koreans are expected to travel overseas this year, up from 22.4 million in 2016, which means that they will positively flood some destinations.
Last year one-third of outbound travelers went on package tours rather than traveling by themselves, according to the Korea Association of Travel Agents.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the tours are cheap for a reason. One 45-year-old woman went on a package tour to northern Europe last year to a ski resort in Lillehammer, Norway. The travel guide told the Korean tourists to relieve themselves outdoors.
"The guide told us that bathrooms charge fees only in the local currency, while there will be no toilet stops for the next two hours, so we should take care of our business outdoors," she recalls. "So we ended up walking into the woods to relieve ourselves while there were lots of tourists from other countries around."
It seems tempting to blame the tour guides, who exacerbate their customers' bad manners by trying to get them to hurry up.
Some tour guides prod Korean package tourists to light up in no-smoking areas. One 37-year-old man joined a package tour to Ha Long Bay in Vietnam last February. He spotted three Korean tour guides smoking in a no-smoking restaurant. "There were several large 'no-smoking' signs in the restaurant," he recalls. "I raised the point with the tour guides and they told me that it was okay to smoke here. They said it doesn't matter in Vietnam."
More egregious are Korean tour groups barging into queues to save waiting time. A tourist went to Kyushu, Japan in February and witnessed a Korean tour guide lining up shopping bags in front of an X-ray scanner at Kumamoto Airport.
"Once the security checkpoint opened, the tour guide yelled and around 20 Korean tourists cut in line where the shopping bags had been sitting. Japanese and other foreign travelers who stood in line behind the shopping bags became visibly irritated, and some shouted at them."
One industry insider said, "Tour guides are extremely dependent on the reviews and tips left by tourists. They need to bend the rules for the convenience of their clients and let them keep up with their schedules to win positive reviews."
Lee Youn-taek at Hanyang University said, "Consumer expectations for the level of service for package tours have risen along with the increased number of Koreans traveling abroad, but the quality of tour guides has not." Lee added, "Domestic travel agencies need to reflect the feedback of their clients and educate their tour guides."