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Department Store Opens Prayer Room for Muslims in Seoul

SEOUL – A South Korean leading retailer will open on Wednesday prayer rooms for Muslims at its store in Seoul, in the first time for a local retailer to designate a prayer room for Muslim tourists.

“We decided to make a facility for Muslim tourists because more and more of them come to the store,” Kim Dae-soo of Lotte Department Store’s marketing division said, Korea Herald reported.

“We’ll also hold a promotion with halal foods and cosmetics in the second half of the year.”

This is the first prayer room for a religious group at a shopping mall in the country.

The prayer room segregating men and women opens on Wednesday and is furnished with copies of the Koran and a “qibla,” which indicates the direction to Makkah.

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The department store built it based on the advice of the Korea Muslim Federation.

The room is planned amid efforts to attract more tourists from the Middle East and Southeast Asian countries.

The retailer is also planning to certify Muslim-friendly restaurants at its stores in Jamsil and Myeongdong in downtown Seoul to meet different demands from the Muslim population.

Some 980,000 Muslims visited Korea last year, up 33 percent from a year earlier, according to the Korea Tourism Organization.

According to the Korea Muslim Federation (KMF), established in 1967, there are about 120,000 to 130,000 Muslims living in South Korea, both natives and foreigners.

The majority of South Korea’s population is made up of migrant workers from Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The number of native Korean Muslims is estimated at some 45,000.