Foreigners Can Use Cards for Gambling
By Lee Hyo-sik
Foreign tourists will be able to purchase gambling chips using credit cards at casinos across the country, the government announced Wednesday.
The administration also plans to ease regulations on the construction and operation of theme parks in a bid to attract investments from Universal Studios and other multinational entertainment park operators, while allowing the establishment of cultural and profit-making entertainment facilities at baseball and other sports complexes.
The Ministry of Strategy and Finance unveiled these and other measures aimed at drawing more investment from overseas, and encouraging Koreans to spend more money here rather than abroad.
Through the strengthening of the domestic services sector, the government is seeking to enlarge the size of the local market, facilitate the ongoing economic recovery and reduce its heavy reliance on exports for growth.
Analysts say that despite a series of government steps over the years to advance the nation's services industry, only a few of them have been put into practice.
"The current economic rebound is largely attributed to aggressive fiscal spending and other pump-priming steps. Private sector activities are continuing to remain in a slump. With lingering uncertainties over the global economic recovery, we cannot solely depend on exports for growth," Koo Bon-jin of the Ministry of Strategy and Finance said.
Koo added that the country should make every effort to boost domestic demand by strengthening the competitiveness of the domestic services sector.
Currently, foreign tourists are able to buy chips only with cash at local casinos. Government officials said this has discouraged non-Koreans from gambling here, adding if visitors were allowed to purchase chips with plastic, they would spend more money.
To help local hospitals attract patients from abroad, the government plans to relax rules and provide more support. Since hospitals here were allowed to engage in commercial activities to attract foreign patients in May, the number of patients soared 33.6 percent in July from a year earlier.
Additionally, a "shopping certification system" will be introduced next year to improve services and facilities of various shops here for foreign shoppers. Through the system, retail stores will be encouraged to provide foreigners with high quality products and services at reasonable prices.
The government will form a taskforce in the near future to make Korea one of the favored field-trip destinations for foreign students.
A wide array of incentives for foreign investors will be provided when they borrow land from state-invested or public companies in the provincial areas to build a large-scale theme park.
They will get an extended land-borrowing period with rental fees reduced, the same benefits they are entitled to when borrowing land from the central and municipal governments, the finance ministry said.
The government also plans to ease regulations on and boost incentives for the establishment of foreign educational institutions to encourage Koreans students to study here rather than head overseas to enroll in foreign schools.
Korean parents are spending billions of dollars every year to send children to secondary schools and universities in foreign countries.
The construction and operation of cultural and other entertainment facilities will be possible at basketball arenas, and football and baseball stadiums to improve the profitability of sports businesses, with some environment-related regulations being relaxed to make it easier for the construction of golf courses near water reservoirs.
The government also plans to build tourism infrastructure in the nation's farming and fishing areas, while constructing marine leisure facilities along the coast, including 40 leisure-oriented harbors.
But Samsung Economic Research Institute economist Joo Young-min said, "All the announced measures sound good. But the problem is many of them are not put into action. It seems that government officials are only interested in announcing policies, while the National Assembly is indifferent to them."
He said unless both work together and are truly serious about advancing Korea's services industry, attracting foreign investment and keeping locals here will remain a distant dream.