SEOUL, South Korea – A fish market in Noryangjin, Seoul is teeming with Chinese tourists. In 2013, less than 100 Chinese tourists visited the market on average every day, but this year the number has risen to 1,000.
Chinese visitors now account for around five percent of the 20,000 daily customers. Chinese people typically shun raw fish, but more young visitors with a newly acquired taste for sushi and sashimi have led to the surge.
But the main boost came from the hit soap opera “My Love from the Star,” which featured the market. Most young Chinese visitors to the market are apparently fans of soap.
In the show, the male lead played by Kim Soo-hyun buys spoon worms at the fish market for the heroine played by Jeon Ji-hyun, and a lot of Chinese tourists order spoon worms, according to one fishmonger.
Already traders are shifting their marketing strategies by taking account of Chinese visitors’ penchant for the color red, offering red crabs, king crabs, lobsters and sea squirts.
“Chinese tourists also prefer reddish fish like sea bream,” a fishmonger said.
There are also around 100 staff who can speak Mandarin, up around three-fold compared to three years ago.
Another fishmonger said all seven of his staff are ethnic Koreans from China. “It’s essential to have workers who can speak Chinese.” Signs and menus are also written in both Korean and Chinese.
Thanks to the increase in Chinese visitors, average daily revenues have risen around 20 percent. “Thanks to Chinese tourists, we are managing to stay open even during the economic slump,” one fishmonger said.