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Tourism Is Booming in the Only Town in South Korea With Pokémon Go

South Korea hasn't allowed Pokémon Go to be released quite yet. But through what appears to be a glitch, one town got lucky.

Dozens of people dressed up as Pikachu, the famous character of Nintendo's videogame software Pokemon, dance with fans as the final of a nine-day "Pikachu Outbreak" event takes place to attract summer vacationers in Yokohama, in suburban Tokyo, on August 16, 2015.       AFP PHOTO / Toru YAMANAKA        (Photo credit should read TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images)
Dozens of people dressed up as Pikachu, the famous character of Nintendo's videogame software Pokemon, dance with fans as the final of a nine-day "Pikachu Outbreak" event takes place to attract summer vacationers in Yokohama, in suburban Tokyo, on August 16, 2015. AFP PHOTO / Toru YAMANAKA (Photo credit should read TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images)

Pokémon Go, the augmented reality game that has Americans wandering city streets looking like total maniacs as they use their smartphones to chase around virtual 3-D characters, has popped up in some unexpected places.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The 9/11 memorial in New York.

Now add Sokcho, South Korea, to that list. The seaside town is the only place in the entire country where the app, which has not yet been released in South Korea, seems to work. According to The Associated Press, South Korean officials claim that a glitch in the gaming system accidentally categorized the town as being in North America, where the game was launched last week.

Whatever the reason, business owners in Sokcho, population 80,000, are certainly not complaining. According to South Korean news agency Yonhap, the small city had four times as many hotel rooms booked in the past few days than it had on the same days the week before.

Businesses have advertised special rewards for Pokémon players, and even the mayor is on board. He promised this week to increase the town’s free Wi-Fi and even offer mobile-charging stations so that players literally never have to stop, despite the fact the national government has still not decided whether or not the game will be available in South Korea. Top officials worry that allowing a foreign company to use mapping data could stoke further tensions with North Korea.

“For the city, it is not easy to promote what the government restricts,” Lee Se-moon, an official with the city’s tourism department, told the AP. “But it is a great help for the city’s tourism because media continues to report about Sokcho and game manias are promoting Sokcho.”

Photo credit: TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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