Guiding tours in South Korea
These information pages can help you get started in learning about some of the laws and registration requirements that may apply to your experiences on Airbnb. These pages include summaries of some of the rules that may apply to different sorts of activities, and contain links to government resources that you may find helpful.
Please understand that these information pages are not comprehensive, and are not legal advice. If you are unsure about how local laws or this information may apply to you or your Experience, we encourage you to check with official sources or seek legal advice.
Please note that we don’t update this information in real time, so you should confirm that the laws or procedures have not changed recently.*
When am I likely to be considered to be conducting a tourism business in South Korea?
You are likely to be considered to be conducting a tourism business in South Korea under the Tourism Promotion Act if you:
- arrange the use of lodging or transportation facilities on behalf of tourists;
- take care of the practical aspects of an organised trip and ensure that it runs smoothly (e.g. taking care of documents and formalities and assisting members of the tour); or
- provide guiding services for individuals from one location to another.
If you provide the aforementioned services for money or other benefit, advantage or gain, it is likely that you will be required to register with your local government.
Here are some examples of when you are likely to be considered to be conducting a tourism business:
- I take someone on a walking tour to point out the architecture of Bukchon Hanok (Korean traditional houses) in the old capital city of Samcheong-dong, and then follow up with a guided visit to Gyeongbokgung Palace.
- I take someone on a guided foraging hike through a protected natural reserve (for example, Bukhansan National Park), during which I provide detailed ecological explanations about the plants and a scientific description of animals species we encounter and their habits.
- I take someone to the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) where I tell them about Korean history and the meaning of the DMZ symbol, as we visit the Dora Observatory, Imjingak Park, the Freedom Bridge, the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel and the DMW exhibition hall.
Here are some examples of when you are not likely to be considered to be conducting a tourism business:
- I hold a calligraphy class for guests. The next day, we meet at my favorite calligraphy store and then we have a meal together in a local restaurant to discuss the various calligraphy techniques.
- I love music and football, so from time to time, I meet the guests at a local music club to watch a local band performance, then go to the stadium to watch the game and meet some players I know.
I’m hosting Experiences or a Trip in South Korea, do I need any licenses for that?
According to the Tourism Promotion Act, arranging the use of lodging or transportation facilities on behalf of tourists, executing agreements on behalf of the tourists to use such facilities, or providing information and other conveniences concerning travelling would constitute a tourism business, which generally requires you to be registered with your local government.
What if I am considered to be conducting a tourism business in South Korea: Do I need to register as a tourism business? How do I do so?
Yes. If you need to register as a tourism business, you will have to do so at least 1 week before your experience starts. To do this, you’ll need to:
- file a registration application with your local government office. The registration application generally should include the following documentation: i) a business plan; ii) lease agreement for the applicant’s office; iii) a document stating your business assets, and documents evidencing the same;
- as of the date of application, have assets of not less than KRW 100 million, and must own, or have the right to use, an office; and
- have subscribed to an insurance guaranteeing compensation for any damages caused to Guests due to accidents caused by your tourism business, or commit a security deposit with the tourism association relevant to your contemplated tourism business, and maintain the same throughout the period of your business. The amount of the above insurance for the initial year of business is at least KRW 50 million, and thereafter determined based on the turnover amount of the business for the previous business year.
Currently, the registration application costs KRW 30,000 in processing fees. You should be aware of potential criminal offences for failure to comply with the above requirements.
As a registered tourism business, you will also need to comply with the general requirements that apply to businesses.
What if I am registered as a tourism business - do I need to engage a qualified Tourist Guide / Tourism Worker?
Under the Tourism Promotion Act, a tourism business that provides interpretation and guiding service to foreign tourists must engage a qualified individual (a Tourist Guide / Tourism Worker) to provide such services. An individual may become a qualified Tour Guide / Tourism Worker by applying for a national license with the South Korea Tourism Organization, which requires taking and passing an examination (covering topics such as history, tourism-related laws, tourism studies, and foreign language). You can find out more information about how to do this here.
You should be aware that a registered tourism business who engages an unlicensed Tourist Guide / Tourism Worker for the purposes of providing interpretation and guiding service to foreign tourists may face cancellation of their business registration, or up to 6-month business suspension or a corrective order.
Is there anything else I should think about?
If your experience will involve other activities (for example, serving or providing food or alcohol or involves transportation), please take a look at our other information sections to work out if any other rules might apply to your activity.
*Airbnb is not responsible for the reliability or correctness of the information contained in any links to third party sites (including any links to legislation and regulations).
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