According to a research report “The Economic Effect of Korea-Russia Visa Exemption Program” published by the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy on July 29, the number of Russian visitors to Korea would rise to 89,650, or 5.6 percent a year, and that of Korean visitors to Russia to 82,668, or 12.1 percent a year.
As for the trade stimulation effect, the bilateral trade volume would rise 0.21-2.42 percent a year to a total of 20.64-37.96 percent. That means the current trade volume of US$22.5 billion (as of 2012) would increase to $27.1-31.0 billion through the visa exemption program.
Lately the number of Russian tourists for medical treatment purposes has increased rapidly. The number was 1,758 in 2009, but has since steadily increased to 9,651 in 2011 and 16,438 in 2012. This is 26.2 percent of all medical tourists of 61,828 visiting Korea in 2012.
The report said, “In order to link the rising interest in medical tourism among Russians with the actual spending, an effort must be made to upgrade the quality of medical services while developing associated tourism programs at local government level.”
The Korean government has begun negotiations with the Russian counterparts to exempt visa requirements since 2010. In May last year, both parties agreed to basic provisions of the agreement and are currently undergoing a review process.
By Sean Chung (firstname.lastname@example.org)