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Read on to find why.
Muslims in South Korea
This might come as a surprise to you but there are quite large Muslim communities there already. To some account there are at least 40 thousand ethnic Korean Muslims and over 100 thousand of Muslim immigrants from countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh.
South Korea and Muslim tourists
South Korea is a popular destination among travelers because of the wonderful attractions like Nami Island, Seoul, Jeju Island, Busan and many more. Not to mention the popular culture of Korea like K-pop and K-dramas spreading across the world has also been the reason why the country is a ‘hot-spot’ attracting more than 17 million tourists visited South Korea in 2016.
After AirAsia, the discount airline in Asia,established flights to main Korean cities, the tourism from Muslim majority countries like Malaysia and Indonesia has surged dramatically.
As a response, the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) is working hard to accommodate these Muslim travelers by issuing relevant promotional travel materials like “Muslim friendly restaurants in Korea”, along their ‘Visit Korea’ app on local tourist attractions.
Halal food in South Korea
Pork and its products like lard and bacon are prominent in the Korean cuisine and snacks, and most of meat served in the restaurants is not halal certified. This is slowly changing as more and more immigrants open halal restaurants of local and their native cuisines, however, the change is slow.
The so-called Muslim street at Itaewon, Seoul is usually the first stop for halal food as this area is home to the most prominent Muslim-friendly eateries like Eid, Makan Murree restaurants serving halal Korean and foreign cuisines.
During your trip, look out for the halal South Korea restaurant certification signs by the Korean Muslim Federation (KMF), which is recognized by Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM). There are 252 restaurants around South Korea, certified under 4 categories:
- Officially certified as halal by the Korean Muslim Federation (KMF)
- Self certified as halal
- Muslim friendly restaurants with halal menu
that ensure Muslim visitors and locals’ piece of mind. Some of the restaurants are located in rural areas to ensure accessibility of halal food.
Otherwise, many travelers and working immigrants opt for seafood and vegetable based dishes when dining out. It’s always advised to research which dishes are Muslim-friendly and write down their Korean names in the local script; alternatively, print this handy lists of halal Korean dishes that includes snacks, mains and desserts, pictures, and names in English and Korean – in both Hangul and Latin transcription.
The language barrier can (and most likely will) be an issue when visiting South Korea so it’s a good idea to have some helpful phrases at hand when looking for Muslim-friendly facilities and ordering your halal Korean food.
In case you’re planning to cook while you’re visiting South Korea, there are quite a few halal supermarkets to shop for fresh ingredients. There are few located in Seoul: Foreign Food Mart, National Foods Mart, Zaaffran Mart, Al-Baraqa Halal Meat and Poultry, and Halal Meat Shop. You can also find halal marts in Busan, Incheon, Daejeon, and Ansan.
If your trip falls on September or October, look for 2-month long Halal Restaurant Week, an annual event that promotes Muslim-friendly restaurants by inviting renowned chefs and issuing discount coupons for various cultural activities and attractions.
Muslim friendly hotels in South Korea
Muslim friendly hotels can be found in any bigger South Korean city. Most of them will remove any alcohol from the mini-bar and provide information on Muslim-friendly restaurants in their area.
P.S. The link leads to Tripfez own hotel platform where hotels are rated on how Muslim-friendly they are.
Prayer facilities in South Korea
There are 15 mosques and around 60 prayer rooms in the airports, universities and shopping malls – most prominent are Seoul Central Mosque, which welcomes around 800 worshippers for Friday prayers, and prayer rooms at KTO Tourism Information Centre and Coex Mall.
There are also few Islamic centres in Seoul, Suwon, Jeju, Daegu and Gwangju in case you need information about Muslim-friendly attractions, halal food or simply just to interact with local Muslims.
Islam in Korean society
Islam is a minor religion in South Korea but actually it has quite old roots. Did you know that once Korea used the Islamic calendar instead of the Chinese-based calendars widely adopted in the region? The Mongol-introduced Arab calendarical techniques offered much higher accuracy and remained in use until the early 19th century. Colloquially it was called as the Muslim Calendar, although there was no real connection with the religion.
Islamophobia in South Korea
In general, South Koreans do not pry into a person’s religion, especially the young generation.
There was a bout of anti-Muslim protests and demonstrations during the South Korean hostage crisis in Afghanistan in 2007 when Taliban forces have captured and held hostage 23 Korean missionaries, two of which we killed; but since then anti-Muslim sentiments have all but disappeared.
And whereas the Korean society has a very understanding view about food restrictions, the alcohol avoidance might be restricting one’s social groups activities.
The ban on drinking is also a problem. “When people go drinking, they leave me out. If I go with them, my not drinking can sometimes make the whole atmosphere go weird,” he said.
A 51-year-old businessman confessed that he drinks one or two glasses sometimes. “You can never do business here without drinking,” he said.”
from Korean Times.
So is South Korea a Muslim-friendly country?
Yes! Koreans became increasingly more educated about Islam with the help of governmental and private organizations, and businesses have shifted resources to provide Muslim facilities.
And when it comes to ordinary Koreans, they aren’t really into the religion nowadays. You can wear a headscarf or have teal-blue hair – noone is going to bait an eye… as long as it fashionable.
A trip to halal South Korea coming soon?
If you’re visiting South Korea, we’ve prepared a 6 day essential Korea itinerary, list of must-have apps, flower blooming guide and the spookiest places and videos of South Korea for adrenaline junkies. And if need to book a Muslim-friendly hotel, visit our South Korea travel guide for Muslim travelers that also has a Qibla map and a prayer time calendar so you don’t miss your prayer.
Those who prefer to have all the travel arrangements taken care of instead, book Tripfez 5D4N fullboard Korea tour that includes Seoul, Nami island and Skiing with an experienced guide.