After positively reviewing the recently released MediTour app, I had high hopes and expectations for this free app from the Korean Tourism Organization. Available for both Android phones and iDevices, the app looks and works nice – but suffers from a flaw that may be a dealbreaker. I tested the Android version; an iDevice app is also available from the iTunes store.

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Startup the Visit Korea app and you’ll see four tabs – About, Hot, Menu, and Map – along with a nice-looking front page (the currency exchanges are a nice touch). Here, boxes offer photos and videos on demand, but the main picture links to an ‘About Korea’ section. Photos come in plenty of categories – they’ve definitely a good job with selection and making categories. Pictures auto-rotate, and the previous and next buttons don’t disappear. The media takes some time to load – they’re not stored locally – and photos and videos don’t take up the full screen. Easily 1/4 of the screen total is black; if you’re on a small screened phone, you’ll be squinting even harder than usual.

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The ‘About’ section is a bit curious. The English is good, and focuses on fairly standard stuff – a good primer on the country, the culture, and the history. The curious part (to this reviewer at least) is why the current Korean president gets as much attention as the entire Joseon Dynasty.

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The ‘Hot’ tab pulls a number of articles and photos down to your phone. Swipe left and right to see the featured articles, which offer no resizing available here – if you have tired eyes, it’s time to pull out the magnifiying glass. While the articles are a bit long (and a bit trying on the eyes with the small font), they’re nice touches. The other articles take you straight to the visitkorea.or.kr page. Not a mobile version, not information built into the app, but the same website you see from your computer:

This is presumably easier for the developers to update, yet requires a lot more swiping and exploring than someone needing information might be willing to try. This is the potential deal-breaker – little thought seems to have gone into using the mobile platform well.

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The ‘Menu’ tab shows off a fancy, smartphone grid of icons – everything from Activites to Culture to Shooping (an unfortunate typo – one of a few I found in the app). While this looks like the nicest, it’s little more than a visual grid of shortcuts to the Visit Korea site. While you might expect a subway map to be built in, it’s not – the link within the app leads to a page that doesn’t function well (or at all). Some of the buttons have local content, but the end results lead back to the Visit Korea site more often than not.

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The ‘Map’ feature is a highlight – a fast-loading directory of places you can easily drill down into. Start with the province or major city, then select by district or smaller city. Some of the end listings are stored on the device, while others head back to Visit Seoul’s website. There’s enough information here to be helpful, and the ‘Map’ feature opens up Google Maps. Directions are almost non-existent, merely addresses, which are difficult for even the natives to decipher.

I’m hesitant to call this an app – rather, a visually enhanced set of shortcuts that link back to Visit Korea’s website. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself, but internet access should not be a requirement for apps that simply provide information. The information is generally good, although the format is still a little rough around the edges. Recommend, with reservations.

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