|A pub in Da Nang, Vietnam is packed with Korean tourists and other customers. Photo from Hankook Ilbo|
By Ko Dong-hwan
Citizens of 11 Southeast Asian countries will be able to visit Korea more easily when Seoul's new visa measures start next month, if they meet certain background conditions.
From Dec. 3, the Korean government will issue multi-entry visas to eligible nationals from Myanmar, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Laos, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Vietnam, India and Bangladesh, according to the Ministry of Justice. Previously, citizens from these countries have had to acquire a visa for each visit.
The multi-entry visa allows holders to come and go while the document is valid.
The ministry expects the change will attract more travelers from the region.
|People in Ho Chi Minh City celebrate on Jan. 23, 2018, as the Vietnamese national football team advances to the AFC U-23 championship match-up after earlier beating Qatar. Korea Times file|
But the visa is limited to professional people, including doctors, lawyers, professors, graduates of local universities with a degree for any four-year-plus program and those with an overseas academic degree equivalent to or higher than a master's.
The ministry defined the eligible pool as "those with the least risk on our country's part of infringing on Korean immigration laws, like staying illegally or getting a job without a valid work permit."
The short-term C-3 visa has varying validity periods up to 10 years, allowing holders to stay up to 30 days each visit.
The ministry is particularly targeting Vietnam, offering a C-3 visa valid for five years to residents from Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang ― cities deemed to boast relatively high consumption trends. Ho Chi Minh City had an average annual income of $5,538 in 2017 and Hanoi $3,500, while the national average was $2,300, according to the ministry.
"With the fame of Vietnamese national football team coach Park Hang-seo and the rising popularity of Korean cosmetics, hairstyles, clothing and food products in the country, we have been seeing an increase in Vietnamese tourists in Korea," the ministry said.
Park, a former Korean national footballer, has hoisted the country's football team to an unprecedented level in international matches and fired up the country's football enthusiasm.
|South Korean President Moon Jae-in, fifth from left, and leaders of ASEAN member countries link hands for a group photo during the 19th ASEAN-Republic of Korea Summit at the Philippines International Convention Center in Manila, Nov. 13, 2017. Korea Times file|
The C-3 visa comes after South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited Southeast Asian countries during his ASEAN tour in November 2017. Following the tour, President Moon said Korea would introduce a new set of friendly "3P" policies toward the region that focus on people, prosperity and peace.
As of October this year, over 6.9 million Koreans visited at least one of the 11 Southeast Asian countries while over 2.1 million from the region traveled to Korea. The total of more than 9 million is a 17.2 percent year-on increase. The figure has been increasing since 2014 when it was about 6 million.
Thailand topped the number of travelers to Seoul among the 11 countries this year with 463,631 by the end of October, followed by Vietnam (441,827) and the Philippines (383,084).
During the period, most Koreans visited Vietnam ― 2.6 million ― while more than 1.3 million went to the Philippines and over 1.2 million to Thailand.