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Korea seeks visa waiver with China

2009. 20 November

by Song Woong-ki
( China has emerged as the focus of the nation's ambition to strengthen inbound tourism, according to a report from the Ministry of Culture Sports and Tourism.

A visa waiver program between Korea and China is currently being planned, and they hope it will be in place in time for next year's Shanghai EXPO, the report said.

In regards to inbound Chinese tourists, the Ministry of Culture Sports and Tourism and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade proposed a plan to allow Chinese who are deemed unlikely to become illegal residents to stay in the country without a visa for up to 30 days.

Through a mutual easing of visa regulations between the two countries, the ministries said that this would allow domestic travel agencies to expand and make further inroads in China.

Chinese tourists make up an increasingly large portion of foreign visitors to Korea with nearly 1.2 million visiting last year.

This year alone saw the number of Chinese visitors increase by more than five times from 2005.

The culture ministry anticipates that the tourism market will grow three fold by 2020 to around $30 billion, compared to $9 billion last year, and draw up to 20 million foreign visitors.

The ministry sees Chinese visitors as crucial to achieving this goal.

"About 1.17 million, or 2.6 percent of outbound Chinese travelers, visited Korea," a ministry official said. "In 2015, the number of Chinese traveling overseas is expected to reach 100 billion. If we get even 10 percent of the number, it would mean 10 million visitors."

Other plans to boost tourism include building new youth hostels and sports leisure centers near the four major rivers. Also on the occasion of 2010-2012 "Visit Korea Year(s)" campaign, the government plans to hold seven large cultural events, including one on hallyu.

A report released by the Ministry of Education yesterday also revealed a proposal to introduce a five-day school week for all primary, secondary, and high schools in order to boost leisure activities among families.

President Lee Myung-bak attended a conference yesterday that was attended by a delegation of the country's administrative ministries, which included a briefing from Culture Minister Yu In-chon on plans and proposals pertaining to strengthening the nation's tourism industry. (