Starting next month, the South Korean government is relaxing visa restrictions to boost the country's economy through tourism.
The Seoul government said Sunday that visa rules for travelers from China, Southeast Asian countries and foreign health tourists will be eased. The issuance of multiple visas for Chinese nationals will be increased, and one-year visas will be available for Southeast Asian travelers who have visited South Korea at least once -- with three- and five-year visa options possible for those with multiple past visits.
Currently, only three one-year visas have been given to Southeast Asian tourists visiting the country multiple times in the past two years.
The South Korean ministry also plans to expand the amount of visas available for foreign patients visiting government-approved hospitals.
However, concerns about relaxing visa restrictions have been expressed. Chinese smugglers -- entering as tourists -- remain a contentious issue, and so the Ministry of Justice plans to increase the accountability of travel agencies escorting foreign tourists, and will screen applicants who enter the country.
Visitors on cruises will be the subject of intense scrutiny thanks to several discoveries of Chinese smugglers.
South Korea is not the only country looking to tap into the lucrative tourism industry to boost the economy. Myanmar's government recently unveiled plans to spend $500 million on opening the country to visitors. While the government wants to make tourism a "pillar" of the country's economy, it wants to do so without impact on Myanmar's "unique cultural heritage and pristine environments."
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