SEOUL, Nov. 19 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea is pushing to allow its citizens to make individual visits to the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, which separates the two Koreas, the unification ministry said Tuesday.
The Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Promotion Council approved the 1.4 billion won (US$1.2 million) expenditure plan to set up a new system to manage visits to Panmunjom, including the launch of a new website for online application for such visits, according to the ministry.
The area has been accessible only to group tours.
“The plan is aimed at expanding citizens’ opportunities to visit Panmunjom which has become a symbol of peace following inter-Korean and U.S.-North Korea summits,” the ministry said in a release.
Currently, South Korean nationals’ visit to the border village is allowed only to group tourists comprising of 30 to 40 participants on a first-come, first-served basis, while foreigners’ visits are managed through a separate process via tourist agencies.
“When the new webpage is established and the application process is unified through the unification ministry, we will also allow applications by individuals and families,” a ministry official said.
The government also plans to cut the period it takes on checking the visitors’ background ahead of the visits which usually takes around 60 days since application.
The website is expected to open to public by the first half of next year.