About Us

Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) is the official institution of the Republic of Korea, responsible for creating strategies and solutions for promotional activities and for travel solutions. 

KTO, having more than 50 years of history, founded and activated Istanbul Office in 2012 in order to implement diverse travel policies and plans to develop tourism activities between Korea and Turkey, two countries sharing deep diplomatic and mutual cultural connections since years. Moreover, KTO Istanbul Office is responsible of coordinating publicity and communication efforts of Korea’s touristic promotion by establishing relationships with media, tour operators, travel agencies, event planners, and individual tourists in 17 countries, including Turkey, Israel, Greece, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia Herzegovina, Romania, Slovakia, Macedonia, Croatia, Albany, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Malta, and Armenia.   

This wide range of communication missions of KTO Istanbul Office can be summarized as:

Execution of Media Relations

To plan to realize advertising and PR activities involving newspapers, magazines, radio, internet, and so on.

Development of Travel Industry

To establish connections and to enforce the existing connections among agencies in responsibility region and the agencies in Korea by supporting development of travel programs.

To Nurture Event Planning

To bring up event planning possibilities like forum, seminar, meeting, expo, and conference in Korea’s internationally acclaimed event facilities by communicating to event planners.

Korean Tourism Organization (KTO), developing most economic and effective strategies to travel to and to accommodate in Korea for visitors all over the world, contributes to the formation of creative and sustainable tourism industry in Korea, thanks to its more than fifty years experience.

KTO Istanbul Office, as an active part of this organization, follows the aims and principles developed and implemented by KTO in order to publicize Korean tourism and to support travel solutions in individual and institutional levels.

In the light of Korea’s deeply rooted traditions and settled institutional culture, KTO Istanbul Office adopts the principles of honesty, openness, and foresightedness to create a win-win situation for all parties, from individual tourists to tour operators and travel agencies.

Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) was founded in 1962, in accordance with the Enactment of the Tourism Promotion Act implemented by the Republic of Korea in 1961. The organization, adding international offices to the investments made in Korea, developed travel and accommodation solutions for many international events such as Asia Games 1986, Seoul Olympiad Games 1988, and FIFA World Cup 2002.1961 – Korea Enactment of the Tourism Promotion Act

1961 – Korea Enactment of the Tourism Promotion Act
1962 – Established International Tourism Corporation (current KTO)
1978 – Hit 1 million in number of foreign tourists (1.08 million)
1986 – Opening of Tourism Information Center (TIC)
1988 – Hit 2 million in number of foreign tourists (2.34 million)
1991 – Hit 3 million in number of foreign tourists to Korea (3.2 million)
1996 – Change of corporate name (from KNTC to KNTO)
1998 – Hit 4 million in number of foreign tourists to Korea (4.25 million)
2000 – Hit 5 million in number of foreign tourists to Korea
2008– Change of corporate name (from KNTO to KTO)
2009 – Hit 7.5 million in number of foreign tourists to Korea
2012 – Opening of KTO Office in Istanbul
2013 – Hit 12 million in number of foreign tourists to Korea

About Korea

Geography

The Republic of Korea is located in Korea Peninsula in North-East Asia. The land is about 1,030 km (612 miles) long and 175 km (105 miles) wide at its narrowest point. Korea owns a unique geographical shape as well as the location which makes it being surrounded by the ocean on three sides.

Korea, having total land area of 100,033 square km, is neighboring Japan to the east, China to the west, and sharing a northern border with Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea). Thanks to have highly mountainous geography, Korea has about 20 national parks which offer spectacular sceneries.  

History

Although the establishment mythology of Korea goes back to 2333 BC, some archeological findings and even artifacts dating back to Lower Paleolithic Period (time interval covering from 2.4 million years to 200.000 years) and Jeulmun Pottery Era (8000-1500 BC) had been recovered.

According to oral and written narratives, in some periods powerful kingdoms exerted a widespread hegemony in Korean Peninsula, but in other periods, wars and alliances among small states had been observed and noted.

Between 57 BC and 668 AD, the peninsula and even Manchuria had been a fighting ground of the Three Kingdoms, (GoguryeoBaekje, and Silla) for six centuries, which was finalized by Silla in 676. After this unification succeeded by Silla, North South States Period (676-936) took place.

After the fall of this empire by inner power struggles, different states had fought to take control over Korean Peninsula; however long term unification had not been succeeded until Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

Korea had its freedom after the Japanese Invasion (1910-1945), and following the end of the World War II, in 1948, divided into to at 38th Parallel. While North Korea has been governed by communism; South Korea, known as the Republic of Korea, adopted liberal policies and became one of the greatest economies in the world thanks to a successful industrial revolution

 

National Symbols

Korean National Flag: Taegeukgi
Korean flag, namely Taegeukgi, has its inspiration from the yin and yang in oriental philosophy. The circle in the center is divided into two equal parts: The upper red responds to the active cosmic forces of the yang; whereas, the lower blue section represents the passive cosmic forces of the yin. It represents the eternal motion of active and passive forces. The circle is surrounded by four trigrams, one in each corner, characterizing continual movement, balance and harmony. Each trigram symbolizes one of the four universal elements: heaven, earth, fire, and water.

Korean National Flower: Mugunghwa
The national flower of Korea is mugunghwa (Hibiscus syriacus, rose of Sharon) which comes into bloom from July to October every year. The flower’s symbolic meaning comes from the Korean word ‘mugung’ (immortality); and as its name the flower gracefully decorates the entire nation during summer and autumn. 

Korean National Anthem: Aegukga
In Korean, Aegukga means 'a song expressing one’s love towards their country.' Korean national anthem was composed by Maestro Ahn Eak-tai in 1935, was adopted by the Korean Government in 1948 as the national anthem; and began to be used at all official ceremonies since then.

Korean lifestyle is a synthesis of tradition stemming from history and cultural richness and of modern life created by high technology and culture of industry. 

In Korea, where the majority of population lives in cities and works for industry and service sectors, the pace of daily life flows with respect to the necessities of modern industrial world. In general, people work in weekdays, between 09:00-18:00 hours. Most of the schools are open for education in weekdays, between 08:00-16:00.

Because it is a country in which big technology and automotive companies were born and flourished, Korea offers high living standards to its citizens. As an outcome of this level of income, traditional and modern entertainment, travel and shopping activities take important place in Korean lifestyle.

Korean Language

In Korea, the official language is which dates back in ancient times. Despite the fact that its relations to Ural Altaic languages and to Japanese had been discussed; Korean is accepted as an isolated language that has its own language family.

As Chinese alphabet Hanja was being used before, 15th century, Hangeul, one of the most indigenous and unique creations of the nation, was introduced in 1443 by King Sejong (1418-1450), the 4th king of the Joseon Dynasty to make reading and writing easier. Today both alphabets are taught in schools.

Religion

All religions in Korea are under the constitutional protection. According to the research held in the country, where diverse religions are practiced in peace and mutual respect, in 2015*; 56% of the total population has no religional affiliation. Of those 44% with a religion, 63% is Christian (45% Protestant), 35% is Buddhist and 2% is followers of other religions. And also there is a small amount of people practicing Islam.

Entertainment

Thanks to the major breakthroughs in last 20 years, Korean entertainment industry became popular in international culture arena. A consistent rise called Hallyu (Korean wave), which started in the beginning of 21st century and first affected Asia and then whole world, made Korea one of the prominent countries in popular culture and entertainment; while contributing to Korean economy. Hallyu, denoting Korean TV series, films, and music, has been so effective that now there are almost 2000 fan clubs and almost 90 million active followers around the world. As to 2013 reports, even in Turkey there are 150.000 devoted fans.

TV Series
Korean series of Hallyu has an important effect on Asian popular culture. These series, also known as K-Drama, are produced generally in romantic comedy, drama or science fiction genres; and distributed to every corner of the world.

Film
Korea, hosting international events such as Busan International Film Festival, Bucheon International Fantastic Films Festival, Jeonju International Film Festival, is attracting attention by feature films produced in the country.  One of the best indicators of this interest is Hollywood’s attempts to remake Korean movies, which has been highly praised thanks to their original and striking stories and plots. Recently, South Korean cinema has attracted international attention with the success of the movie Parazite (2019) which has won 4 Academy Awards including the Best Picture in 2020 and became the first foreign language film to win Best Picture.

 Music
K-Pop is probably the most known and the most powerful field of Hallyu. It is a combination of dance, ballad, electronic, R&B, and hiphop genres with or without Korean lyrics. K-Pop is accepted as a subculture in which visuality is also in the foreground as much as music. 

Korean cuisine is known for wide range of tastes, created through thousands of years, mainly by grains, vegetables, pulses, and seafood, as well as meat.  Nevertheless, the importance of rice, soy, and seafood enshrine in Korean cuisine. Boiling and steaming are widely used techniques, but raw seafood processing can also be seen. Another indispensable role in Korean cuisine, which portrays a genuine presentation of different combinations of diverse tastes, is played by seasonings and sauces. It is believed that the taste and quality of food depends on its spices and sauces, the essential ingredients to making a delicious meal. Therefore, soybean paste, soy sauce, red pepper paste and kimchi are some of the healthiest and the most important staple in a Korean household.

The necessities of globalized world and modern life also affect and change the Korean food industry. Especially in metropolitan areas, restaurants representing world cuisines, fast food restaurants, and halal certificate restaurants are added to classical Korean restaurants. 

For restaurant list, please click.

Korean Beverages

Korean people have enjoyed making their own liquor from healthy ingredients since ancient times. Koreans, fermenting grains for alcohol since 4thcentury, also adopted the beverages of neighboring cultures. Generally sticking to ginseng, ginger and fruit beverages, alcoholic drinks have been produced by fermentation and distillation.

For Koreans, the times of both sorrow and joy is accompanied by lifelong companion, alcohol. The traditional liquor is literally called as “medicinal alcohol.” It is thought that the moderate alcohol use has certain health benefits.

Table Etiquette

Koreans have not only produced recipes of foods & beverages in their own way, but also created table etiquette and dining types according to certain customs. While the dining types may change depending on the ingredients, traditional table etiquette stays same.

In traditional Korean dining all foods are brought to table at the same time. Services on the table are arranged for one person: Everyone has a plate, leftover plate, chopsticks, and depending on the foods serves spoon.

Meal Types
1- Dining: For standard dining, rice is main dish. Banchan (side dishes) are arranged according to recipe, color, and heat of the food. The number of side dishes can be set as 3, 5, 7, 9, 12.

2- Porridge Meal: Main dish is porridge in this meal. It is accompanied by side dishes which have no salt or lower levels of salt, like nabak-kimchi (seasoned and fermented radish), bugeo-bopuragi (dried  coalfish porridge), jeotguk-jjigae (fermented seafood stew).

3- Noodle Meal: It is a lunch or snack meal, composed of noodles, tteokguk and sauces.

4- Liquor Table: This setting is for entertaining guests and for having a good time. Several appetizers such as dried meat, fish slices, jeon, pyeonyuk, jjim, jeongol, saengchae, kimchi, fruits, rice cake are served with liquor.

5- Refreshing Table: It is a type of setting without alcohol. People enjoy dirinks like gaksaekpyeon, yumilgwa, yugwa, dasik, suksilgwa, saengsilgwa, hwachae and tea.

6- Grand Dining: In this meal a crowded number of people are served, especially during special event like holidays and ceremonies.

Table Manners
In Korean culture, dining etiquette and table manners are strictly defined. Behaving not accordingly may be accepted as disrespect. The most important points can be summarized as such:

  • Seating is arranged according to either age or status. Most respected ones sit in the middle, while the youngest ones or people with the lowest status take places close to the door.
  • Seniors are the first to be served, to lift their chopsticks or spoons, and to start eating. After their initiation, others can eat.
  • Spoon is only for rice and soup; for all the other foods chopsticks are used. Foods cannot be touched by hand; and plates cannot be lift up.
  • Foods, which are in easy range, are reached to.
  • Denying a food or a drink may be seen as a non polite action.
  • When dining is finished, chopsticks and spoon are put on their places neatly.
  • In meals at home, there may be a little leftover except rice, which is expected to be finished totally.
  • If the meal is taken in restaurant, no matter how forcefully a contribution is offered, generally inviting person pays the bill. Except for Western style restaurants and hotels, no tip is left.

Attention to Turkish Citizens Traveling to South Korea:
1973 between Turkey and the Republic of Korea "Visa Exemption Agreement" in context, are exempt from visa for their travels up to three months citizens of the two countries for tourist purposes.

Within the framework of the measures taken in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak, South Korea has suspended the visa exemption for 90 countries, including our country, as of April 13, 2020.

About Visa Restriction Related to COVID-19

- Within the scope of combating COVID-19, the Visa Exemption Agreement and Visa-Free Entry Rule have been temporarily suspended.

- Since COVID-19 is ongoing, visa application procedures are carried out on a limited basis. The visa evaluation process has changed from 5 working days to 14 days.

- For visa applicants, it is mandatory to give the result of the COVID-19 PCR Test obtained from the health institution. (The result must be submitted within 48 hours at the latest from the visa appointment date.)

- Visa applications for tourism purposes are not accepted. (visiting family and relatives, independent travel etc.)

- Visa applications will not be accepted for visiting purposes that are determined to increase the workload of the Republic of Korea Health Institutions during the COVID-19 Pamdemi process.