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Seoul to issue multiple-entry visa to Chinese tourists

South Korea plans to issue a multiple-entry visa to Chinese tourists in an apparent attempt to…

South Korea plans to issue a multiple-entry visa to Chinese tourists in an apparent attempt to jump-start the country`s moribund tourism industry, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism said today.

Under the new visa plan, Chinese tourists would be allowed to visit South Korea as many times as they want within a year, if they have a track record of no visa overstays after five or more trips to Korea.

The government also plans to extend value-added tax breaks for tourist hotels until the end of next year, as well as ease restrictions on the construction of golf courses, including offering tax exemptions on entrance fees.

The culture ministry reported these and other tourism-boosting measures to the Cabinet after consultation with relevant ministries, according to officials.

South Korea has been sustaining a growing travel account deficit with China and other countries, as more people travel to other countries than visit here.

To promote the competitiveness of tourist hotels, the government plans to apply industrial electricity rates to the hotels until 2006 and allow them to employ foreign workers.

Included in the plans are ways of inducing Korean golf tourists to play at home instead of going overseas, the main culprit for chipping away at the travel account balance.

To that end, the government is considering lifting restrictions on the size of golf courses and their facilities, as well as increasing the number of courses across the country.

The culture ministry further plans to foster royal palaces in Seoul into tourist attractions representing the beauty and life of Korea.

It will also provide more support to transform Yongyu, near Incheon, and Goyang into a tourist zone and a cultural venue, respectively, according to officials.

In the short term, we will make efforts to close the gap in the travel account, but in the long term, we will come to develop tourism into a growth industry in the 21st century, a ministry official said.

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