Seoul launches ‘Gangnam Style’ tourist police force
By Karla Cripps
(CNN) — Just when you thought South Korea had milked the global success of “Gangnam Style” rapper Psy for every drop, along comes the unveiling of Seoul’s new tourist police force.
The connection? The officers’ uniforms were created by Korean fashion designer Kim Seo-ryong, who has made costumes for Psy.
Naturally, “Gangnam Style” was played as a group of Seoul police officers performed Psy’s famous horse-riding dance during the tourist police inauguration ceremony at Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square on Wednesday.
South Korea’s Tourism Board (KTO) says the government decided to launch the force, made up of 101 men and women, in response to the rising number of visitors to the capital.
“These tourist police officers will be patrolling major tourist areas in Seoul such as Myeong-dong, Insa-dong, Itaewon Tourist Special Zone and Hongdae,” said the official announcement.
“Aside from maintaining law and order and cracking down on overcharging merchants and taxi drivers, the officers will also be providing tourist assistance in English, Japanese and Chinese.”
According to the Korea Tourism Organization, complaints from tourists involving shopping rose from 23.6% of all complaints filed by foreign tourists in 2008 to 34.7% last year, while overcharging by taxis and other transportation operators accounted for 15-20% over the last five years, reported Korea’s Chosun.com.
The tourism police are only on duty in Seoul at the moment, but will be expanded to other regions in the coming years.
“At the moment we don’t have enough personnel to expand the service to other regions but we are planning on hiring more officers,” says Ryou Hyun-cheol, director of foreign affairs planning division at the National Police Agency, in a Korea Times report.
“By early next year, we are planning on launching tourism police in Jeju Island. We will also expand the service to cities such as Busan and Incheon.”
This isn’t the first time South Korea tourism officials have used Psy’s global fame to promote tourism. And who can blame them, really.
To date, the official “Gangnam Style” music video has had over 1.79 billion views on Youtube.com — making it the most watched video of all time on the site.
In April of this year, Psy was hired to be South Korea’s tourism ambassador, a gig that had the star appearing in a series of TV commercials to show off the country.
According to the KTO, Psy will hold the honorary position for approximately a year.
In the TV commercials, which air in 70 countries, the comedic singer helps showcase things to eat and do and places to visit in South Korea, such as the late-night shopping district of Dongdaemun and “Cosmetic Road” in downtown Myeongdong, known for its rows of flashy makeup shops.
Psy accepted minimal payment for the gig as officially representing South Korea was meaningful work, he said.
Frances Cha also contributed to this report.
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