Korea will begin a test-run of an expanded no-visa entry program for transit tourists bound for another country starting next week, in an effort to boost struggling domestic tourism by drawing more foreigners into the country, the government said Tuesday.
Under the new system, all international passengers transferring at Incheon International Airport, except for passengers from 11 countries, will be allowed to enjoy a visa-free transit tour of Seoul and its vicinity areas within 12 hours of arrival, the culture ministry said in a statement.
The passengers, in that case, must use certain state-approved transit tour programs run by domestic tourism agencies, it said.
The change will also benefit Chinese passengers coming to South Korea to take domestic flights bound for the southern resort island of Jeju.
Authorities will consider adopting the system if the three-month trial period that begins on Oct. 29 goes smoothly, officials said.
The 11 countries include Nigeria, Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Cuba, whose citizens are banned from entering Korea's Jeju Island without a visa, according to the culture ministry.
Currently, such a transit tour is only allowed for tourists with visas to the United States, Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well as Chinese citizens traveling with a visa to one of 30 European countries.
Officials expect the new program to help revitalize the domestic tourism industry and enhance the status of Incheon airport as a transportation hub in Northeast Asia through the growth of transit passengers. (Yonhap)