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Tipping Culture in Korea: Changing Tides

Updated on Oct 04, 2023 · By ENKOR
TL;DR: Please help keep tipping culture away from Korea.

Tipping is a customary practice in many parts of the world, often seen as a gesture of appreciation for good service. However, in South Korea, the tipping culture has traditionally been quite different. Here's a deep dive into the tipping culture in Korea and how it's evolving.

Traditional Tipping Culture in Korea

Historically, South Korea has been a no-tip culture. In many settings, tipping is not only uncommon but can also be considered disrespectful. This is in stark contrast to many Western nations where tipping is almost expected. For instance:
Restaurants: Tipping is not customary in restaurants in South Korea. The prevailing belief is that customers are already paying a fair price for the food, so there's no need to pay extra. Instead, it's common to express gratitude verbally, with phrases like "annyeonghaseyo" (hello) when entering and "kamsahamnida" (thank you) when leaving. Bowing slightly is also a gesture of respect.
Taxi Drivers: Tipping taxi drivers is not a common practice. If a driver provides exceptional service, passengers might round up the fare and let the driver keep the change, but this is not expected.
Hotels & Spas: Tipping in hotels and traditional Korean spas, known as jjimjilbangs, is not expected. In some cases, attempts to tip have been outright rejected. If a guest is particularly pleased with the service in a hotel, they might leave a tip in an envelope in the room, but it's advised to avoid tipping in person.
Tour Guides: While tipping tour guides isn't mandatory, those who cater to international tourists, especially from Western countries, might be accustomed to receiving tips. However, in more rural areas or with local guides, tipping might be seen as out of place.
In essence, the traditional view in Korea is that service providers are doing their job and are being compensated fairly for it, so there's no need for additional gratuity.

Changing Tides

Tipping culture in Korea has traditionally been non-existent, but in recent years, there has been a growing trend of tipping, especially in tourist areas and in the service industry. This change is likely due to a number of factors, including the increasing influence of Western culture, the growing number of tourists visiting Korea, and the rising cost of living.
There are a number of reasons why some people believe that tipping should not be a part of Korean culture. One reason is that tipping is not customary in Korea and can be seen as rude. Another reason is that Korean workers are already paid fairly and do not rely on tips to make a living. Additionally, some people worry that tipping could lead to inflation and higher prices for consumers.
The debate over tipping in Korea is likely to continue for some time. However, it is clear that the tides are changing and that tipping is becoming more common in Korea.

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