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The Red Angels of Seoul
By Daniel Thomas Faller | Schauplatz Korea Magazine
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When you walk through the streets of Seoul, you can't miss them. They wear a conspicuous red uniform and know the answer to almost every question.
These days you see them more often; the Mobile Tourism Helpers or - as they are also called - the Red Angels. With constant friendliness and daily red uniforms, they show tourists the way. But how are these helpful people assisting others with much more than information about attractions?
This weekend, I met with Hyein Jo(28), one of the Red Angels. Hyein was born and raised in Korea, studied business and has been working for the Seoul Tourism Association since 2017.
Hyein Jo is happy to share her knowledge with those interested. | Photographer Daniel Thomas Faller
Hyein, the Red Angels are always seen at important tourist sites, in red uniforms and in pairs. What is your job?
We are all employees of the Seoul Tourism Association. Our job is to inform locals and tourists about Seoul and its tourist attractions. Often, they ask about a certain route or destination. But they are also interested in sights in the area or want to know where to take the best selfie. We want people to feel comfortable and have fun during their stay in Seoul.
How many Red Angels are there in Seoul?
In Seoul, there are about 130 Mobile Tourism Helpers working in 10 locations, all full-time employees. In addition to the Mobile Helpers, there are also several Information Centers where tourists and other interested people can get information about the area.
Do the Red Angels always stay in pairs?
There are always two of us on the road, that's right. This primarily has to do with our language skills. Our mother tongue is Korean. In addition, we all have a basic knowledge of English. But each of us has an additional language in which we specialize. These are mainly English, Chinese, and Japanese. This often results in teams of two speaking Chinese/Japanese, English/Chinese or Japanese/English. However, the composition of the teams depends very much on the area of operation.
The Red Angels in Seoul are always on duty in pairs. | Photographer Daniel Thomas Faller
How long are you on site? What are your operating times?
In normal weather conditions, five hours in the field and about three hours in the office. The rhythm is one hour in the field and then one hour in the office. In extreme weather conditions, such as today with over 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 degrees Fahrenheit) in the shade, our employer is very accommodating. The assignments in the field are then limited to half an hour at a time.
An hour in the office? For a break?
We use it for a break and our study time. The offices are often located in the immediate vicinity of the assignment site. There, we use our time for self-study and to educate ourselves about the current field of operation.
What is your most important work tool?
Apart from my memory, these are the maps of Seoul, felt pens and Post-its.
How have you experience the Corona period?
During the Corona period, many foreign tourists have been staying away. Therefore, most of our presence has been focused on the office service. However, there are also times when we work from home. There, we produced some selfie videos for training purposes. This was done to analyze how we present ourselves to the outside world. Also, we took some online lessons about history and tourist attractions and share some ideas to enhance our capabilities. Now, you can see more tourists in the city of Seoul. However, most of them are still Koreans who come to Seoul from other regions of the country during the vacation season. But we are looking forward to when we can take care of foreign guests again.
Why did you become a Red Angel?
During my studies, I was an exchange student in Florida for one semester. I participated in the Disney International Program and learned, among other things, about communicating between cultures. This combined with connecting with people was the catalyst for me choosing this type of job. After my studies, I talked to the local Red Angels in Myeong-dong in Seoul and learned a lot about this job. From then on, it was clear to me where I wanted to work in the future.
What do you particularly like about your job?
I get to meet lots of new people every day. The encounters are usually only a few minutes. But during this short time, I can help people. I can pass on my knowledge in Korean or English and make people happy. I always get direct feedback, which motivates me a lot. I am very proud to be able to represent Seoul.
Have you had any special experiences?
There are many. But one that has stayed in my memory was an encounter with a Thai tourist. About 3 years ago, she asked me if I could help her. She wanted to buy strawberries in Korea and transport them to Thailand. I showed her the places where she could buy the appropriate strawberries and made several phone calls to Incheon Airport in Seoul. There I made the necessary clarifications with the authorities. The Thai tourist was able to "export" her Korean strawberries safely to Thailand. Afterwards she took a selfie with me. Two years later, this woman came back to Korea. On her tour of the city, this tourist happened to meet me again. I didn't recognize her at first. But when she showed me the selfie, we had taken two years ago, the joy around this memory was great.
Today, there is an app for almost everything and you can get a lot of information about Seoul from the Internet. Do you still need the Red Angels?
Absolutely. Even the best app in the world can't replace our charm and friendliness.
The services of the Mobile Tourist Helpers are greatly appreciated. | Photographer Daniel Thomas Faller
1 - The Red Angels of Seoul, July 2021. Link:
About Schauplatz Korea Magazine
Schauplatz Korea Magazine is not just an ordinary online magazine. People and their stories are in our focus. We are curious about places we visit, open to people we meet, and excited about what we see. We report unvarnished and real.
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