TOURISM

South Korea

South Korea eases visa rules to attract more Chinese tourists

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 August, 2013, 5:24pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, 8:49am

South Korea, in an effort to boost its tourism industry, plans to ease visa restrictions for Chinese citizens, particularly those from Beijing and Shanghai.

Starting September 1, South Korea will issue multiple-entry visas to Chinese nationals who are officially registered as living in Beijing and Shanghai, and to those who own timeshares worth 30 million won (HK$208,580) or more in condominium resorts.

Spouses and children of Chinese citizens who already hold a multi-entry visa were also eligible to apply along with current students at China’s top 112 universities, the justice ministry said on Sunday.

The length of the visa issued would depend on how frequently the visitor had visited South Korea in the past, but three- or five-year visas would be the ones most commonly issued, a justice ministry official told the South China Morning Post.

A multi-entry visa holder can stay in South Korea for up to 30 days per visit.

A surge in Chinese tourists, who make up more than a third of all foreign visitors to South Korea, has been the force behind the nation’s tourism boom.

In 2012, 3.74 million tourists from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan visited South Korea, up nearly 30 per cent from the year before, said the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Seoul said it would also relax multi-entry visa requirements for citizens of other South and Southeast Asian countries, such as India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Seoul will also allow medical tourists who are staying at government-designated hospitals to submit visa applications online instead of visiting a South Korean embassy abroad.

Last month, South Korean President Park Geun-hye said tourism was a new growth industry for the country.