The Korea Herald


Korea to pilot visa for K-pop trainees

By Im Eun-byel

Published : June 17, 2024 - 15:33

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Foreign tourists stroll around Gyeongbokgung, central Seoul on June 13 (Yonhap) Foreign tourists stroll around Gyeongbokgung, central Seoul on June 13 (Yonhap)

South Korea is to introduce a separate visa track for foreign nationals who aspire to become K-pop stars in a move to attract more tourists from overseas, the Finance Ministry announced Monday.

The ministry released a set of measures to help bring more foreign visitors to the country such as streamlining the entry process and offering incentives for using public transportation during a meeting of economic affairs ministers.

The measures were based on the concern that the country’s tourism revenue -- the amount that inbound visitors pay for goods and services in the country -- has been slow to recover following the pandemic outbreak, despite the fast rebound in the number of foreign tourists.

As part of the directive, the government will launch the “K-culture training visa” this year for a trial run, covering foreign nationals who want to undergo training at K-pop entertainment agencies.

Under the new scheme, foreign nationals who are learning K-pop dancing, choreography and modeling can be approved for a visa. Details for the visa will be confirmed in the second half of this year.

It will also roll out a “region-specific digital nomad visa” for foreign nationals seeking to work remotely while living in Korea, connecting them with regional governments.

Furthermore, the government will add staff and increase the number of visa application centers to cut down on the time needed for visa issuance and enable tourists traveling in organized groups to apply for Korea Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA) together. It will also introduce more automatic recognition technology for overseas passports to boost efficiency.

Additionally, the government plans to increase direct flights between regional airports in Korea and foreign cities, including new routes between Busan and Jakarta, Indonesia, and Cheongju, North Chunghcheong Province and Bali, Indonesia, along with increased flight frequencies between Daegu and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, in the second half of this year.

It will discuss further flight arrangements with countries with people who are highly interested in visiting Korea, such as the Philippines, in July.

To improve convenience for tourists using public transportation in Korea, luggage delivery service from KTX train stations to hotels will be expanded to 16 locations, adding Daejeon, East Daegu and Gwangju Songjeong stations as new service areas.

A public transportation pass for foreign national tourists with an app that accepts overseas credit cards will be introduced in major cities. The government said foreign visitors will be able to use public transportation at a reasonable price with one-day or two-day passes.

Korea will look into expanding the scope of E-9 nonprofessional employment visas to tackle the labor shortage in Korean restaurants in tourist areas. It will also train more multilingual tourist guides to respond to the growing number of visitors from Southeast Asian countries, such as Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

In December 2022, the Korean government pledged to boost the COVID-19 pandemic-hit tourist industry, attracting 30 million foreign visitors and generating a revenue of $30 billion from them by 2027.

The number of foreign nationals visiting Korea has sharply increased from around 970,000 in 2021 to 11.03 million in 2023, with 4.87 million people visiting Korea between January and April this year. But tourism revenue, which stood at $10.6 billion in 2021, grew less than the government's expectations, reaching $15.1 billion last year.

With the figure standing at $4.9 billion for the January-April period, this year's tourism revenue is likely to be similar to that of last year. With changes in tourism trends, tourists are spending less, focusing more on cultural experiences rather than shopping, the government noted.

“We will resolve inconveniences in the entry and transportation processes for foreigners, increasing their satisfaction,” Finance Minister Choi Sang-mok said at the meeting.