SEOUL – Seoul government announced on Monday its plan to build more Muslim prayer rooms in 2018 to fulfill the needs of the growing number of tourists from Muslim countries.
“Most Muslim tourists enjoy shopping in Myeong-dong and Dongdaemun Market, but very few prayer rooms are available in those locations and many visitors express low satisfaction related to religious facilities in Korea,” a city official told Korea Times on Monday.
The government plans to invest $190,000 in erecting three prayer rooms at popular tourist destinations by May to satisfy the needs of Muslim tourists from Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
Moreover, the plan includes building prayer rooms at Tourist Information Centers in Seoul after gathering opinions from Muslims living in Korea and religious experts.
Men’s and women’s prayer rooms will be separated and a Qur’an will be provided in each room.
According to the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), the number of tourists from Southeast Asia and the Middle East reached 985,858 in 2016, a 33% increase from 740,861 visitors in 2015.
The proportion of Muslim tourists to South Korea has been growing steadily since 2014 from 5.3% to 5.6% in 2015, and then 5.7% in 2016. The KTO believes the influence of Hallyu International Korean Wave and K-pop play a basic role in attracting Muslim tourists to the East Asian country.
On the other hand, the Muslim prayer rooms in Korea are far from adequate with only 78 facilities in operation across the entire country.
They are mostly found in universities or hospitals, which makes it difficult for Muslim tourists to find prayer rooms nearby while sightseeing in the capital city Seoul where there are only 14 religious facilities.
Apart from mosques, only three prayer rooms are available at the capital’s tourist destinations, four at various universities and six at various hospitals.