K-culture fans become younger

By Kim Joo-heon Posted : March 11, 2024, 15:01 Updated : March 11, 2024, 21:30
Courtesy Big Hit
[Courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment]

SEOUL -- Thanks to increased global recognition of South Korean culture including K-pop and Korean food, South Korea has become a popular tourist destination. Among some 11 million foreign travelers who visited the country in 2023, 35.6 percent were aged 30 or younger.

Data released by the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) showed that 3.93 million out of the 11.03 million foreign tourists in 2023 were aged 30 or below. Of them, tourists aged between 21 and 30 accounted for 25.3 percent, and those aged 20 or below accounted for 10.3 percent.
Courtesy of CJ Entertainment
K-pop festival 'KCON' [Courtesy of CJ ENM]

The proportion of young travelers aged 30 or below has significantly increased since 2013, when it was only 27.5 percent. After reaching a peak of 34.6 percent in 2019, there was a slight decline in 2020 (32.6 percent) and 2021 (20.4 percent) during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the proportion rose again to 32.4 percent in 2022.

Over the past 10 years, the proportion of tourists aged 30 or younger has surged by 8.1 percent. Last year, Japanese tourists aged 30 or below accounted for 42.3 percent, marking a 15.7 percentage point increase from 10 years ago. French tourists accounted for 43.6 percent, up 15 percent from 2013, and British tourists were at 34.4 percent, showing a 13.7 percent increase.
Courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment
[Courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment]

"The growing interest in K-pop, Korean food, and K-beauty products is driving an increase in the number of travelers," Kim Hyun-ju, a senior researcher at the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute (KCTI), told Aju Korea Daily on March 11. The researcher analyzed that there was a significant increase in the consumption of South Korea's cultural content during the three years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think BTS played a leading role in drawing young foreigners during the pandemic," Kim added. In June 2020, the seven-member band attracted about 756,600 fans through its live online concert using advanced technologies including 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), and virtual reality (VR). It was the world's largest paid virtual concert performed in a special studio.
Courtesy of CJ Cheiljedang
[Courtesy of CJ CheilJedang]
Kim also highlighted the global popularity of Korean cuisine among young expats. In a survey of 500 foreigners who visited Seoul more than once, most respondents said they revisited the capital city to taste K-food again. The online survey, released by the Seoul Tourism Organization, was carried out for 12 days in July 2023 among foreign travelers from five countries -- the United States, Japan, China, Thailand, and Britain.
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