South Korea is mulling easing regulations on visa procedures and the establishment of resorts and casinos to attract more Chinese tourists and boost the tourism industry as a new growth engine. Led by the Ministry of Strategy and Finance and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the government is planning to expand beneficiaries of multiple visas and ease restrictions on operating medical centers for foreigners in eight economic free zones, including Yeongjongdo and Songdo in the country’s west. Yeongjongdo has the country’s gateway Incheon International Airport, while Songdo is being developed into an international city. The ministries will report the plan to President Park Geun-hye later this month.
“All ministries involved are discussing ways to boost the service industry,” said a government official. “We will put the final touches on the plans after (inter-ministerial fine-tuning).”
South Korea has continuously made efforts in recent years to relieve visa regulations for Chinese visitors, including visa waivers for Chinese travelers to Jeju Island, a southern resort island. The new plan includes increasing the number of beneficiaries of multiple visas from high-income government officials, businessmen and medical personnel to include middle-income visitors. With a multiple visa, tourists can re-enter South Korea with a single visa. The government is also considering easing visa rules for medical and health tourists who visit South Korea for the purpose of receiving medical treatment.
The number of Chinese visitors jumped 52.5 percent to 4.3 million in 2013 from a year earlier on the back of the Korean Wave and softened visa restrictions. In Jeju and economic free zones, medical centers for foreigners will be set up to absorb the rising number of medial tourists from China. According to government data, 56,075 Chinese patients received treatment in South Korea in 2013, compared with 4,735 in 2009.
Leisure and entertainment resort complexes with casinos will be built in Yeongjongdo and Jeju Island, according to the officials. For the financial industry, the authorities are reportedly considering easing the current daily limit of 15 percent imposed on stock price movements in a bid to invigorate the sluggish local equity market.