PHUKET TOWN: In response to a long-standing dispute between Thai guides and Korean tour operators, Governor CEO Pongpayome Vasaputi yesterday announced that 99 Korean nationals will be allowed to register as tour-guide interpreters. The announcement was made at a meeting, attended by local government officials and Korean tour operators, which was arranged to resolve months of conflict. The conflict arose after Thai tour guides complained of losing work to illegal guides, notably those working for Korean tour operators. The Korean tour operators argued that there were not enough Thai guides in Phuket with sufficient Korean language skills to fulfill their requirements. The Governor spent four days personally interviewing 200 Koreans to test their Thai conversational skills. Previously, prospective interpreters had to pass a written exam in Thai. The 99 who passed will now be able to apply for a license issued by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. Once licensed, they will be allowed to accompany Thai guides on tours, but only as interpreters. “Thais will be guides, and Koreans will work with them as interpreters,” Gov Pongpayome said. He added that if any Korean interpreters were found to be acting as guides, it would be the tour operator – not the interpreter – who would face punishment and fines.
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