South Korea relaxes visa requirements for Chinese visitors


SEOUL – South Korea will drastically relax visa requirements for Chinese tourists beginning next week, in a move to attract more visitors from its fast-growing neighbour nation, Yonhap News Agency reported the Justice Ministry as saying Tuesday.

Under the new measure, the number of Chinese eligible for multiple-entry visas from Seoul will be expanded to newly include, for instance, employees of the top 500 Chinese companies, schoolteachers, retirees with pension income, holders of various professional licenses and graduates of prestigious colleges and universities.

The multiple-entry visa would allow them to freely enter South Korea during a set period.

Currently, the special visa benefit is offered only to those who have residence in member nations of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, owners of platinum- or gold-class credit cards and professionals, like professors and doctors.

In addition, Seoul will newly issue “double-entry” visas that would allow Chinese visitors to enter the country twice within a set period for tourism and brief visits between overseas trips.

Students enrolled in prestigious colleges and universities in China will also be allowed to obtain a visa, while family members of those who have single-entry visas are expected to be automatically given the same visa, officials said.

“We expect this measure could attract more tourists from China and boost the tourism industry in the nation,” an official at the ministry said.

The number of Chinese visitors to South Korea has steadily increased, reaching 1.2 million in 2009, up from 585,569 in 2005, and 920,250 in 2007, according to the ministry.