A few weeks ago I was pleased to notice that Lonely Planet quoted me when discussing what a terrible place Seoul is. I was even more pleased to notice today (although it’s from back in January) that the Korea Times quoted me in turn while getting its knickers in a twist over Seoul’s harsh branding in Lonely Planet’s Least Favourite Cities list:

A harsh review of Seoul from Lonely Planet, the world’s largest travel guide book and digital media publisher, has drawn mixed reactions here.

Recently, the travel book’s Web site posted a list of the world’s nine “least favorite destinations,” and Seoul was rated third on the list, after Detroit in the U.S. and Ghana’s Accra.

The Web site describes Seoul as “an appallingly repetitive sprawl of freeways and Soviet-style concrete apartment buildings, horribly polluted, with no heart or spirit to it.”

Officials are casting doubt on the basis and criterion of the selection.

According to a recent BBC report, the list was based on comments from netizens and travelers.

A Seoul City spokesman said Wednesday that the list was compiled from a total of 42 comments to the question “What are your least favorite cities?” posted on the Lonely Planet Web site.

Seoul’s position is that the survey is biased and groundless, as only two of the 42 comments were related to Seoul. The criterion, number of respondents and the exact margin of error of the survey have not been disclosed.

“We believe that the list was initiated as a tool to generate a buzz and controversy,” said Cho Won-joon, an official in charge of tourism promotion with the Seoul city administration. “Foreign tourists are increasingly satisfied with their stay in Seoul,” Cho said.

Don’t worry, Korea. You’ll make it to California someday!

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