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Korea promises to increase 'travel bubble' agreement countries

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Transport Minister Noh Hyeong-ouk speaks during a press conference held at the government complex in Sejong City, Monday. Courtesy of Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport
Transport Minister Noh Hyeong-ouk speaks during a press conference held at the government complex in Sejong City, Monday. Courtesy of Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport

Gov't to supply more housing to stabilize sales prices

By Kim Jae-heun

Noh Hyeong-ouk, the new minister of land, infrastructure and transport, said that the government will increase the number of countries it has signed travel bubble agreements with despite the growing threat of the Delta variant spreading overseas.

"A travel bubble means an agreement signed between two countries whose governments believe that both countries are safe to travel to. We acknowledge that COVID-19 infection cases are increasing again in other countries. If the situation gets better and safety is secured, I want to sign and approve travel bubble agreements with more countries," the minister said during a press conference held at the government complex in Sejong City, Monday.

Last week, Korea agreed to send tour groups to Saipan and reciprocally to allow tours from there, without the self-quarantine period, only under the condition that travelers are fully vaccinated. The minister said people will be able to travel to Saipan starting next week.

The government has also been in talks since last year with other countries such as Singapore, Taiwan, Guam and Thailand to push ahead with its travel bubble initiative.

However, the Delta variant has become a new threat in many countries, including Singapore, and COVID-19 infections have been rising again in Thailand. This new wave of infections brings people to think that it is too early to implement travel bubble agreements. Nonetheless, the minister said that the initiative will continue. The next country the government is likely to sign a travel bubble agreement with is Singapore.

Vice Transport Minister Hwang Seong-kyu, right, signs a travel bubble agreement with Saipan's governor, Ralph Torres, in Seoul on June 30. Yonhap
Vice Transport Minister Hwang Seong-kyu, right, signs a travel bubble agreement with Saipan's governor, Ralph Torres, in Seoul on June 30. Yonhap

"Talks are underway with Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand currently. We think we have better chances to close the deal with Singapore than with the other countries," Noh said.

Meanwhile, also during his first press conference, the minister promised to put all his efforts into stabilizing housing prices and improving the ethics standards of public servants. It has been less than two months since Noh was appointed as land minister in May.

The biggest responsibility Noh has to take during his term is to stabilize housing prices and to make sure that people have housing in which to live ― especially young people and newly married couples.

"We have consistently been working on meeting the demand and supply of housing amidst the difficult economic environment. The best way to solve this problem is to keep providing housing. We will work closely with local governments to proceed with our plan as soon as possible," the minister said.

The government has also been criticized recently over various controversies, especially those involving high-ranking officials who were embroiled in speculative land deals, including former Land Minister Byeon Chang-heum.

In March, the land ministry came under fire after several employees at the state-run Korea Land and Housing Corp. (LH) were found to have purchased real estate illegally.

The new minister made a promise to renew the organization in order to prevent its public servants from continuing to buy land based on speculation.



Kim Jae-heun jhkim@koreatimes.co.kr


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