You Can Only Play Pokémon Go in South Korea in This One Seaside Town - Atlas Obscura
Our new kids' book is on sale! Shop now.

You Can Only Play Pokémon Go in South Korea in This One Seaside Town

The “Pokémon Go holy land on the peninsula” is being mobbed.

To be the very best, like no one ever was, takes commitment. For some, this means house-hunting based on PokéStop proximity. For others, it requires braving septic fields. For South Koreans, it takes a little extra: booking a bus, flagging a carpool, or hopping on a bike, and heading up to the Northeastern city of Sokcho—currently the only place where you can catch ‘em all.

Although Pokémon Go is not yet available in Asia, impatient fans have found various ways to bypass the region locks and play anyway. But certain features of Google Maps are blocked in much of South Korea, making the game impossible. As the Korea Herald explains, “An iPhone user in South Korea can download the game from the phone’s U.S.-based app store, but no Pokémon creatures appear as it is unable to properly sync with the phone’s GPS system.”

That is, except for in Sokcho. A glitch in Niantic’s map organization means that this border city is classified as North Korean—and, therefore, that the Pokémon run wild and free. Screenshots from one local 7-11 worker show Krabby, Pidgey, and Nidoran hanging out in the store, where he jokes “no customers come… only monsters.”

Posted by Marta Marciniak on Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Sokcho has embraced its new status, rebranding itself as “the only Pokémon Go holy land on the peninsula” and providing maps of free WiFi areas, Reuters reports. The city’s mayor has promised more Smartphone charging stations, as well as increased security to keep Poké-tourists safe.

Fans have embraced Sokcho in turn: Bus tickets to the city from Seoul have sold out, the Pokémon Go Korea Facebook group is full of would-be players making plans to carpool and bike there, and Redditors are already planning meetups. (One player even found a gym in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, which could easily lead to a very unique catastrophe.)

New favorite city or not, they still have their priorities in order. “Sokcho is nice,” one tourist wrote on Facebook, describing fresh sashimi, a sea breeze, and lots of PokéStops. “I rate Sokcho 7.8/10. Pokémon Go, however is a solid 10.”

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to cara@atlasobscura.com.