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30% of foreign short-term visitors stay illegally

Nearly 3 out of 10 short-term foreign visitors to South Korea are believed to be staying here illegally, government data showed Sunday.

According to data by the justice ministry, a total of 79,617 foreigners who came to South Korea on short-term tourist visas were staying here illegally as of July 31. The figure represents 28 percent of 285,378 foreigners who landed in South Korea on short-term tourist visas, the data showed.

By country, 43.7 percent, or 34,852, of the illegal foreigners came from China, followed by Thailand with 19.4 percent, or 15,448; Mongolia with 5.1 percent, or 4,098; the Philippines with 4.9 percent, or 3,937; and Vietnam with 3.5 percent, or 2,778.

The rise in the number of illegal foreigners was attributable to the government’s streamlining of visa issuance procedures to attract more tourists, according to the data.

Notably, there was a 17 percent hike in the number of illegal foreign stayers who came to Jeju Island under the government’s special no-visa entry program launched in May this year.

Under the program, all visitors, except nationals from terror-related countries, can enter the resort island without a visa for a stay of up to 30 days, if their purpose is tourism.

Non-Korean nationals transferring at Incheon International Airport, the South’s main gateway, to a third country or Jeju are allowed to stay for 72 hours following their arrivals in the Seoul metropolitan area, including Incheon, a port city 80 kilometers west of Seoul.

In particular, Chinese group tourists who transfer at the airports of Incheon and Gimhae, 449 kilometers south of Seoul, to Jeju, were also permitted to stay for 15 days without visas in the area around the airports. (Yonhap News)
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