The Justice Ministry will ease visa regulations for South Asian visitors, who have become a major group for the Korean tourist industry, according to officials Tuesday.
Under regulations to come into effect next week, nationals from 11 major South Asian countries will be issued a double-entry visa, which allows them to freely revisit Korea within six months, in between or after transits to other countries.
This measure came in response to the growing reputation of Incheon International Airport as a flight transit spot, according to the ministry.
Tourists will also be required to submit fewer documents to prove their financial credit and employment status, officials said.
Group tourists, especially, may have their visa issued based on guarantees from their local tour agencies alone.
Also, a multiple-entry visa, which enables the holder to freely reenter the country for three consecutive years, will be issued to those who have a Korean university graduate degree and families of immigrants married to a Korean spouse.
Family members of multiple-entry visa holders are to automatically enjoy the same benefits.
Up until now, the special visa had been available only to those who earn over $10,000 per year, pension recipients, and professional workers such as doctors and media-related employees.
The beneficiary states include India, Bangladesh, Philippines, Vietnam, Pakistan, Nepal, Laos, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Myanmar, according to the ministry.
So far, visa regulation benefits have been limited for these countries in fear of an influx of illegal immigrants.
“We expect the new visa regulations to attract a greater number of South Asian tourists, whose number has been growing at a fast speed over the past few years,” said a ministry official.
“Also, South Asia, holding over one fifth of the world’s population, is a tourist marketing source with even further potential in the future.”
The ministry will also enact measures to prevent illegal immigrants from abusing the new system, he added.
The number of visitors from the eleven beneficiary states reached 357,932 last year, up 21.2 percent from the previous year, according to the ministry.
The ministry enacted a similar set of eased regulations for Chinese tourists last year, which resulted in a visible increase in visits.
The number of Chinese nationals entering Korea last year rose by 42 percent from the previous year and the number of visa issuances by 47.5 percent, according to the ministry.
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org