When I was travelling through Asia in 2019, I spent a few days in the Seoul. I have to say it was a fantastic place and possibly my favourite city in Asia. I am aware that in countries like China, there are loads of scams which you need to be careful of. Although I didn’t expect people trying to scam me in South Korea as the country is renowned for being crime-free.
Approached by People While Walking in Seoul
This story starts off when I was walking through the streets of Seoul and I was randomly approached by two Koreans who looked like university students. They came up to me speaking perfect English and asked me unusual questions such as how long I had been in Korea. They also asked if I could speak Korean. If you don’t know these questions are massive red flags. Scammers ask potential victims these questions to figure out if they can scam them.
However, I didn’t feel that they were suspicious at all, they came across as very friendly. We struck up a friendly conversation for five minutes. Then they explained that they were university students looking for foreign people to show Korean culture. I was asked if I could join them for a demonstration of Korean culture.
They took me to a place a few metro stations away and it was inside of an apartment building. They gave me a hanbok to put on which is a traditional piece of Korean clothing. Although it looked like it was very cheaply made. I had to bow in front of a shrine and then was asked for three wishes. Which were wrote down on a piece of paper and then burnt.
A Strange Ceremony
After that, they presented me with a plate of fruit and biscuits. It was insisted that I eat all of it using chopsticks. Once I ate all of the food I insisted that sitting on the floor was unpleasant for me, so they showed me to the rooftop where I could sit on a chair. They then asked me for some money to donate to them, so that they can keep showing tourists these ceremonies.
I straight up told them that I would refuse to give them any money, they didn’t insist after that and they let me on my way giving me back my bag and shoes. Their honesty and the fact that they didn’t force me to give them any money made me think they weren’t scammers. After a quick google I found out that this is a very common thing around Seoul.
Sometimes people are scammed out of huge amounts of money because of these people and the ceremony that they show you isn’t authentic Korean culture. It is said these people are actually part of a cult. Later that evening, I was walking around Hongdae and was approached by two young women who were asking what I was doing in Korea, I’m not sure if these people were also trying to scam me or if they were genuinely interested in me.
The moral of this story is that while you are travelling, you should be very wary of strangers who approach you speaking perfect English and seem like they are interested in you. The reality is that these people are always trying to get money.
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