Help is on the way!

Written by on May 3, 2012 in Travel

Whether you’re new to Korea or just here on a business trip or holiday, chances are that you know very little Korean. With the confusing back alleys and ever changing landscapes, it can be confusing to navigate the urban jungle. However, don’t fear traveler, Korea has some amazing resources for you and we’re about to cover three of them right here!

The 1330 Line

One of the greatest resources available today is the Korea Tourism Organization’s 1330 Line. This line offers basic translation services (for taxis, events, meals, etc.), reservation assistance for hotels, buses, and trains, and transportation help (getting around by bus, subway, or rails). If one needs medical assistance, the 1330 line can help with that as well. The service is free and is offered in Korean, English, Japanese, and Chinese. The Seoul office operates 24 hours a day; however, each major metropolitan area also has a specialized 1330 line, making it a Korea-wide service. After hours, these local offices transfer their calls to Seoul, to maintain 24-hour coverage.

To use the service, dial 1330 from any landline, or if calling from a mobile phone (or overseas), use the area codes below to identify specific 1330 Help Centers.

(0)2 – Seoul
(0)31 – Gyeonggi
(0)32 – Incheon
(0)33 – Gangwan
(0)41 – Chungnam
(042) – Daejeon
(0)43 – Chungbuk
(0)51 – Busan
(0)52 – Ulsan
(0)53 – Daegu
(0)54 – Gyeongbuk
(0)61 – Jeonnam
(0)62 – Gwangju
(0)63 – jeonbuk
(0)64 – Jeju

Seoul City Guides

The Seoul Tourism Association started a new program in 2009 to help Foreigners explore Seoul’s hotspots. This service augmented the city’s information booths by adding roaming tour guides wearing highly visible red jackets. Initially, they began in six key districts: Itaewon, Myeongdong, Namdaemun, Dongdaemun, Sinchon, and Insadong and have been slowly expanding their service. All guides speak English, but there’s also service in Japanese and Chinese. The guides patrol the districts every day of the week (times vary based on location) and actively seek out those that might need assistance. While out on patrol, if the guide doesn’t know the answer, they call back to the office and have a co-worker research the information online.
Since these guides work the same area every day, they are very familiar with the area (and even carry maps). When asking for directions, they will identify your current location on a map, draw your route, and then hand you the map to assist you on your way. On a recent trip to Insadong, I needed to use the service to help identify where a particular restaurant was located. The guides were able to give me pinpoint directions.


One of the oldest foreigner service groups in Korea is the Before Babel Brigade (as in the Tower of Babel). It started as an initiative from the Joong Ang Ilbo to gather residents together to help visitors to Korean during the 2002 World Cup. Since 2003, it has operated as its own entity and now boasts more than 4000 members. The BBB provides free translation service via mobile phones 24/7 in 18 different languages.

To take advantage of the service, just call 1588-5644 (no area code is needed) and your call will be routed to someone. The service is also unique, as they have BBB cards available that can be handed out to Koreans. These locals can then call the BBB. The BBB also provides 3-way calling, meaning that they will call a contact for you and another party. Visitors coming to Korea, can also rent a BBB phone from Incheon International Airport. The service is through SK Telecom and made available at a discounted rate.

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About the Author

Steve Miller

Steve Miller, the QiRanger, is Korea’s best-known travel video blogger-journalist. His videos have been viewed by millions and seen on media outlets in throughout the word. In addition to sharing his entertaining and informative videos, he writes about life abroad and releases a popular podcast. Steve appears regularly on international radio stations, talking about travel, Korean culture and East Asian news. He’s also appeared on Arirang Television sharing unique aspects of Korean life. You can follow Steve on Twitter @QiRanger or visit his site