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Social media, media and urban transformation in the context of overtourism

Hochan Jang (Department of Tourism, Korea National Open University, Jongno-gu, Republic of Korea)
Minkyung Park (School of Sport, Recreation, and Tourism Management, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA)

International Journal of Tourism Cities

ISSN: 2056-5607

Article publication date: 3 February 2020

Issue publication date: 25 February 2020




The purpose of this study is to document how a traditional residential neighborhood, Ihwa village in Seoul, South Korea, is transformed into a tourist attraction and demonstrate the complexity of the overtourism phenomenon and the multifaceted conflicts among stakeholders that emerged in the course of urban transformation. Particularly, the study explores how tourism growth, urban transformation and overtourism are intertwined with each other and how the role of social media and media contributed to tourism growth and the transformation of an urban neighborhood.


The study conducted text analytics (a big data analysis) using personal blogs and news articles. Our data for text analytics was defined to retrieve all news articles and blogs existent in the NAVER portal, the largest Korean portal and search engine, for the period between January 1, 2006, and December 31, 2018. The data was collected using a web crawling program, TEXTOM version 3.0.


Text analysis of blog entries and news articles suggests that each medium has its unique role and domain to play. While the news media contributed to the initial surge of interest in Ihwa village, genuine growth of tourism in Ihwa village seems to be attributed to social media. Texts that appeared in blogs strongly indicated that people used their blogs to share their trip experiences, which can be subsequently assumed that blogs had an influential role in promoting a small place like Ihwa mural village, while news articles tended to highlight negative or unusual events occurred in Ihwa village. The study also addressed the multifaceted nature of the conflicts that were inherent in the issue of urban regeneration and how those conflicts were developed and manifested in the process of touristification and overtourism in Ihwa village. As touristification can manifest in various forms in different places, the case of Ihwa village demonstrates a unique development of touristification; private tourism companies or tourism agencies did not initiate or intend to cause tourism gentrification. Rather, touristification is a byproduct of urban revitalization through public art and is a result of interplay between the local government’s interest, social media and new tourist demand.


Text analytics using big data have rarely been attempted to understand the role of social media in relation to tourism growth and touristification of an urban tourism place. This study advances the literature by applying big data analysis to user-generated content in blogs. The study also contributes to the deeper understanding of a different developmental pattern of touristification in an urban tourism place as well as the complexity of the overtourism phenomenon and the multifaceted conflicts among stakeholders.



The authors would like to thank Young Ki Kim and Hong Kyu Choi (Ihwa village community activists) for their interviews in helping us understand the circumstances around the conflicts among residents and sharing their opinions about the current urban regeneration plan. We also want to express our gratitude to Byeoungsoo Park, a blogger of “Photography is a Power” for providing original files of photos used in the paper. Lastly, we thank Stephanie Chang for proofreading. Funding: This research was supported by 2019 Korea National Open University Research Fund.


Jang, H. and Park, M. (2020), "Social media, media and urban transformation in the context of overtourism", International Journal of Tourism Cities, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 233-260.



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Copyright © 2020, International Tourism Studies Association

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