Travelers who canceled planned trips to Turkey in the wake of the Feb. 6 earthquake are facing a dilemma: go on their trips despite the disaster or pay exorbitant cancellation fees.
Kim Min-ju, a 31-year-old office worker who planned to go on a package tour on Feb. 19, had to cancel the trip after hearing about the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria.
Kim contacted the travel agency to make the cancelation but was told she would receive only a partial refund due to cancelation fees.
According to Kim, the agency told her it would keep 40 percent of the 1.2 million won ($945) she paid for the package tour as a cancellation fee.
That number would rise to 70 percent if she were to cancel less than 10 days before the scheduled departure date.
“The government is not banning travel to the area, and as the travel agency also does not recognize this as a case of force majeure, the agency says a full refund is impossible,” Kim said.
“I decided to cancel the trip since my friends and families were concerned that it’s dangerous to visit the country.”
Online communities have been flooded with inquiries regarding canceling trips to Turkey.
One person posted a question to an online travel website asking if travelers will go on planned trips to Turkey.
Many responded that they had canceled their trips after paying cancellation fees.
Some even said travel agencies refused to cancel their trips.
Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not banned travel to Turkey, though it did issue special travel advisories on Feb. 7 recommending people avoid visiting the provinces of Kahramanmaras, Malatya, Adiyaman, Osmaniye, Adana and Hatay.
The ministry issued stronger advisories for four other provinces — Diyarbakir, Malatya, Gaziantep and Kilis — recommending that Korean nationals leave those regions.
According to travel agencies, most tourist spots in Turkey are located far away from the epicenter of the earthquake.
Cappadocia, the tourist spot believed to be closest to the epicenter of the quake, is over 300 kilometers away from the epicenter.
“In past disasters like the Tohoku earthquake of 2011 and the typhoon in Saipan, traveling agencies responded promptly as transportation was affected,” said a traveling agency spokesperson.
“But Turkey is a different matter.”
The Foreign Ministry said cancelations and refunds for travel packages are done according to travel companies’ terms of service as travel warnings imposed on parts of Turkey are only recommendations.
BY HWANG YEA-LIN, CHO JUNG-WOO [email@example.com]