July 21, 2024

From the phenomenal success of Squid Game and other K-dramas to the global stardom of BTS and more K-pop madness, K-culture fever has shown no signs of slowing down since its first wave from around the mid-1990s to early 2010s.

After South Korea’s tourism sector suffered a dramatic drop due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism announced this month that it will invest around $1 billion in tourism in 2024.

Aiming to attract 30 million foreign tourists by 2027, the country also launched the Visit Korea Year 2023-2024 campaign, which features various cultural offerings in the past year, with more to come in 2024.

If the resurgence of the Korean wave in recent years has yet to convince you to explore South Korea, perhaps some major international events happening in the country this year will. Here, we unpack some exciting reasons to visit South Korea in 2024.

Catch the Youth Olympics and More Global Sporting Events

This year, the Winter Youth Olympic Games will come to Gangwon, the South Korean province that hosted the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. The games—also known as YOG—will take place from January 19 to February 1.

Tickets for all events, except for the opening ceremony held in the city of Gangneung, are available free of charge “in a move to make the Games as accessible as possible,” according to the International Olympic Committee.

While catching the games, visitors can also easily explore Seoul, the bustling South Korean capital, which is just an hour and 30 minutes from Pyeongchang, via the country’s KTX high-speed bullet train.

For more Olympic-related action, visitors can also hop on the KTX train to Busan, the country’s second-most-populous city, which will host the 2024 World Team Table Tennis Championship, marking the 100th anniversary of table tennis in South Korea this year. The 16 finalists (eight men and eight women) of the championship, taking place from February 15 to 25, will win an entry into the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Endurance sports enthusiasts may want to also watch or participate in the Seoul Marathon taking place on March 17. The race has been given the highest certification of platinum from World Athletic and is designated by the International Association of Athletics Federation as a World Athletics Heritage event, taking its place alongside big-name marathons in Boston and Athens.

Opening ceremony performers at 2018 Winter Olympics.
Korean performers demonstrating martial arts at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where the 2024 Youth Olympic Games will be held. There will be no charge to attend any of the sporting events.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Savor Michelin Cuisine in South Korea’s Vibrant Second City

Busan, South Korea’s thriving second city nestled on the country’s southern coast, will be getting its own Michelin Guide in February 2024.

The Michelin Guide, the internationally known rigorous restaurant rating system, will highlight the city’s rich gastronomy and best restaurants based on a range of criteria, from the quality of the ingredients and the harmony of flavors to the mastery of the cooking and the expression of the personality of the chef through the cuisine.

Readily accessible from Seoul in around two to three 3 hours by KTX train, Busan is ideal for a combined city break and coastal escape, with plenty to chew on beyond its cuisine. The booming cultural hub hosts various events throughout the year, such as the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), Asia’s top international film fest.

The busy port city is also home to some of the country’s most popular beaches, such as Gwangalli, which are flanked by imposing skyscrapers, luxury hotels and other high rises.

Visitors can take in spectacular views of Gwangalli’s sprawling crescent shaped coast from the Gwangan Bridge, the city’s famed suspension bridge. The area around Gwangalli beach was the location for a car chase scene in the 2018 Hollywood blockbuster film Black Panther.

Overview of South Korea's Busan by night.
A stock image of an overview of Busan, South Korea’s second-most populous city, by night. Busan will be getting its own Michelin Guide in February.
iStock / Getty Images Plus

Get Ahead of the Fashion Curve

Move over New York, London, Milan and Paris—Seoul is looking to take center stage on the international fashion circuit. Having established its space in the music, television and film industries over several years, South Korea is also hoping to leave its mark on the global style map.

Seoul Fashion Week, which is normally held in March and October every year, will be held a month earlier this year in February and September to “gain a competitive edge over the Big 4 fashion weeks…by holding the event earlier than them,” according to the official Seoul Metropolitan Government website.

The criteria for the Korean brands selected to be featured at the upcoming fashion week in Seoul, which takes place from February 1 to 5, was revised to include “the potential for growth and international experiences” to promote “stronger competition in the global fashion market,” the government said.

Seoul Fashion Week shows in September 2023.
Models walking the runway at the Doucan fashion show (pictured left) and the Acceptance Letter Studio show (right) at Seoul Fashion Week in September 2023 in South Korea.
Justin Shin/Getty Images

Korean stars have already made some noise on the international fashion scene, such as the members of the global K-pop girl group Blackpink, who are ambassadors for various luxury designers including Chanel, YSL, Dior and Celine.

Among the Korean brands to be featured at Seoul Fashion Week in February is the sustainable fashion label UL:KIN, which was previously showcased at the 2023 spring/summer season of New York Fashion Week.

Fashionistas in town for Seoul Fashion Week can also explore the capital’s trendiest districts as the event is held every year at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, the futuristic UFO-shaped cultural complex designed by the late British architect Zaha Hadid that forms the centerpiece of the city’s fashion hub.

This year’s shows will also be held at the S Factory facility in Seongsu-dong, one of the city’s hippest neighborhoods. Dubbed the “Brooklyn of Seoul” for its similar vibe to the New York City borough, Seongsu-dong is known for its trendy cafes and shops in converted industrial spaces.

Keep your eyes peeled for celebrity sightings, as the star-studded fashion week is attended by various Korean celebrities. Previous attendees include NewJeans—the girl band that debuted in 2022 and has already broken world music records set by BTS and Blackpink—who were the official ambassadors at the most recent show in 2023.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul.
A stock image of the striking UFO-shaped silhouette of the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, the cultural complex where Seoul Fashion Week is held.
iStock / Getty Images Plus

Discover Asia’s Top Restaurants in Seoul

If Busan’s Michelin offerings have whetted your appetite, hop over to Seoul in March as the capital hosts the unveiling of the 2024 listing of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, the internationally recognized industry ranking voted by over 300 culinary experts from six key regions across the Asian continent.

Various culinary events will be hosted in the capital over several days in late March, when the awards ceremony revealing the restaurant rankings will take place on March 26, such as 50 Best Signature Sessions.

The annual event sees some of Asia’s best chefs offer bespoke exclusive menus at different local restaurants across the host city. Visitors can follow the @theworlds50best Instagram account for the latest announcements about the venues participating in the 50 Best Signatures Sessions.

While you’re in town, indulge in Seoul’s fine dining scene via the 2024 Michelin Guide to Seoul, which will also be unveiled alongside the aforementioned Michelin Guide for Busan.

The Michelin Guide to Seoul has gone from strength to strength since it was first launched back in 2016. Its 2023 edition featured 176 restaurants, including 35 Michelin-starred restaurants, two of which are three-star establishments.

For those looking for less than Michelin-starred prices, there’s plenty more to explore across the capital, such as Gwangjang Market, which offers street food galore and is a great place to start your Korean food adventures.

Bibimbap, a traditional Korean rice dish.
A stock image of bibimbap, a traditional Korean dish served with vegetables and beef on a bed of rice, topped with a fried egg. Explore the flavors of South Korea and the rest of Asia in Seoul, where the 2024 listing of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants will be unveiled in March.
iStock / Getty Images Plus

Step Into the Future at the Robot & AI Museum

While advancements in artificial intelligence might have only started taking off in recent years, there’s already a museum dedicated to its developments opening in South Korea.

The country is famed for having its finger on the pulse of advanced technology, as home to the world’s first offering of 5G mobile services and one of the fastest internet connection speeds in the world.

At the Seoul Robot & AI Museum (RAIM), visitors will be greeted by a robot upon entry and get the chance to interact with different smart technologies, from more robots to augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR) features, according to Melike Altinisik Architects (MAA), the designers behind the museum.

Rendering of Seoul Robot & AI Museum.
A rendering of the exterior of the upcoming Seoul Robot & AI Museum, which is currently under construction in the South Korean capital and expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2024.
Melike Altinisik Architects

Featuring a striking spherical shape, the upcoming museum will serve as an exhibition/education space and a research hub. The venue will not only showcase robots and other AI innovations, but robots will also help build the museum.

In a statement, architect and designer Melike Altinisik, the founder of the firm behind the museum, said “from design, manufacturing to construction and services, smart technologies will be in charge. In other words, RAIM will start its ‘first exhibition’ with smart design and smart building methodologies.”

The museum is currently under construction and is expected to be completed towards the third quarter of 2024, a spokesperson for MAA told Newsweek.

The spokesperson noted that at this stage, the robotic construction of RAIM “has not been fully implemented,” adding that “mainly it will take part [in] the exhibition rather than being the main construction methodology.”

Interior of Seoul Robot & AI Museum.
A rendering of the interior of the upcoming Seoul Robot & AI Museum.
Melike Altinisik Architects

Explore South Korea as a ‘Digital Nomad’

Wish you had more time to properly see the rest of South Korea? From January 1, foreigners have been allowed to work remotely in Korea for up to two years under a new “workcation” visa, also known as a “digital nomad” visa, the country’s Ministry of Justice announced last month.

“To make remote work and vacation of foreigners in Korea smoother, we have decided to launch a new digital nomad visa,” the ministry said, noting the rise of the workcation trend of people working remotely.

Foreigners were previously only allowed to stay in the country for fewer than 90 days without a workcation visa. The new visa allows “employees and employers in overseas firms to tour and work remotely in Korea for a longer period of time,” the ministry said.

Under the latest system, visa holders can work remotely in South Korea for a year, with an option to extend their stay by another year.

Visa applicants must be 18 or older, have worked in their current field for at least a year and have a minimum annual income of over 84.96 million won ($63,624).

“We hope the visa will be an opportunity for us to showcase our country and our culture,” the ministry said.

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