|Korea's first lady Kim Jung-sook is visiting India at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The new visa system is expected to attract more tourists from India, one of the world's fastest-growing outbound markets. Yonhap|
By Jung Min-ho
The Korean government is considering launching a group visa system for Indian tourists as early as the start of next year.
The ministries of justice and foreign affairs said last month in response to Rep. Song Young-gil of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea that they were considering the system, which would make Indian tourist groups' entry to Korea cheaper and more convenient.
The ministries have not finalized their decision. But expectations remain high, with first lady Kim Jung-sook visiting India at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Korean government is pressing ahead with the visa policy as part of efforts to diversify incoming tourist markets, after learning a lesson that relying too much on one country, China, is risky. Korea's tourism industry took a major blow following China's revenge against deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system here in 2016.
Currently, Indians traveling to Korea need an individual tourist visa from the Korean Embassy in India. Under the proposed system, a representative of a tourist group (five or more) can get the visas for all.
Tourists from China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia and the Philippines are the beneficiaries of the system.
Many in the tourism industry here have demanded the government expand the system to India, which is among the world's fastest-growing outbound markets.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, Indian outbound tourism has the potential to grow to 50 million by 2020, from about 25 million now. Ten years ago, 8 million Indians traveled overseas.
Song is confident the government will adopt a group visa system soon and it will benefit both countries.
"About 70 percent of Indian tourists travel in groups," Song, head of the Korea-India lawmakers' friendship association, said. "The new policy will strengthen Korea's position as an aviation transport industry powerhouse and revitalize its tourism industry that is still reeling from the 'THAAD revenge.'"