The South Korean government will ease visa rules to lure more visitors from Asian countries like China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia as part of efforts to bolster the country’s tourism sector.
The Ministry of Justice announced Tuesday that it will offer multiple-entry visa to Chinese visitors from broader regions of top 13 wealthiest cities including Suzhou, Xiamen, Tianjin, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Wuhan, Changsha and Qingdao. Korea currently issues multiple-entry visa to visitors from only four regions – Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Multi-entry visa allows visitors to enter the country many times for a certain period of time.
Chinese students attending a four-year university in Korea will also be able to receive visa simply by submitting certificate of studentship. The measures will take effect within the first half of this year.
The ministry expects the relaxed visa rules would help restore the number of Chinese visitors, the major driver of the country’s tourism, to the pre-THAAD level. The Chinese government’s travel ban on group tours to Korea, which has been in place since mid-2017, halved the number of inbound Chinese tourists to the country.
Under the government’s New Southern Policy that aims to strengthen relationships with Southeast Asian nations and India, it will also simplify visa application procedures for visitors from these countries. It plans to offer group tour visa to Indian tourists to attract more Indian visitors and promote group tourism.
The government has allowed online visa applications for visitors from Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia since last year. The number of group tourists from the Southeast Asian countries increased 24 times from 1,497 in 2015 to 36,015 in 2018.
The Ministry expects that the simpler visa rules to promote tourism in the country and enhance personal exchanges among Asian countries despite concerns that the simplified entry could also increase the number of illegal immigrants.
By Sung Seung-hoon and Choi Mira
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