SEOUL, March 23 (Korea Bizwire) – Southeast Asian tourists might soon be able to visit South Korea without the hassle of obtaining a visa, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) said at a finance ministers’ meeting yesterday.
The ministry’s move is said to be part of a series of measures to revamp tourism in South Korea and cushion the damage felt by the tourism industry amid Chinese retaliation over the deployment of an American THAAD missile battery.
Other measures announced by the government yesterday will see different approaches to attracting foreign visitors, aid for the tourism industry, and efforts to turn South Korean tourists’ attention back to home, away from abroad.
Visitors on package tours travelling from Southeast Asian countries including Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines to Jeju Island through either Incheon or Gimpo airports will be allowed to stay in South Korea for up to five days without a visa.
Hwang Myung-sun, the head of department at the MSCT, said, “The number of Southeast Asian visitors to South Korea is growing. With promotional programs going into effect earlier than the originally planned dates, we are going to stabilize the tourism industry in the first half of the year.”
“In terms of attracting more Southeast Asian tourists, we’ll prepare different approaches to (neighboring) countries like Japan,” he added.
In preparation for potential problems that could spawn out of the new visa-free tourism program, the MSCT is currently in talks with the Ministry of Justice to come up with countermeasures.
With the aid of the government, South Korean airlines will add more flights to the Southeast Asian region and expand their business in the Philippines, Taiwan and Mongolia.
Government subsidies of around 100 billion won will be spent on the tourism industry, one of the sectors in the South Korean economy heavily hit by China’s recent economic retaliation.
The government’s outreach program to revitalize tourism in the country will also target South Koreans at home who have been flocking to foreign countries during the holiday season.
A monthly program called “Day with the family” is being introduced, which will allow workers to leave two hours early on Friday to spend more time shopping and dining out with their family members, in return for working an extra thirty minutes from Monday to Thursday.
Hyunsu Yim (firstname.lastname@example.org)