US business leaders on Tuesday said South Koreans may be able to enter the United States without having to stand in long lines or speak with customs officials at airports starting early next year.
To sidestep lines, the "difficult and sometimes threatening" interviews when they enter the US, about 1,000 out of seven million Koreans with valid passports have enrolled in the global entry program while on trips to the North American country.
In their annual "Doorknock" meetings with members of Congress and senators, US business leaders at the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea last month said Washington officials were very supportive about offering the global entry program sooner to South Koreans.
"I will be going back to Washington, D.C. in July to follow up and help begin the execution of the global entry process (for Koreans)," said AmCham Chairman and CEO James Kim, adding that WeWork, a member company, has worked on several similar programs in the US
AmCham Vice Chairman David R. Ruch expected South Korean nationals will likely benefit from the global entry program as early as in the first quarter of next year.
A traveler has his passport scanned as he passes through U.S. Customs and Immigration. (Reuters)
"The fiscal year really determines the timeline. The US fiscal budget runs from October through September so it's unlikely that we will see much movement towards the start of next fiscal year," Ruch said.
If South Korea becomes eligible for the global entry program, it will be the third Asian country that is part of the program after Singapore and Taiwan. Japan and China are not part of the program. Globally, 11 countries participate in the program, AmCham said.
If only 10 percent of Korea's eligible passport holders, or 700,000 people, are incorporated into the program, it could generate an additional 500,000 Korean visitors to the US each year, increasing US share of the Korea market by 2 percent and tourism exports by $2.4 billion, the US business lobby said.
With visa waivers and global entry, more Koreans are expected to travel to the US without worrying about entry interviews, Jeffrey Jones, chairman of AmCham's board of governors, said.
The move will also help US carriers, such as United Airlines, Inc. and Delta Air Lines, Inc., and Korean airlines, such as Korean Air Lines Co. and Asiana Airlines Inc., boost their financial results, he said.
The US business leaders said the trade balance situation between South Korea and the US has improved considerably when both goods and services are considered.
The trade deficit in goods decreased to $22 billion in 2017 from $27 billion a year earlier. The US has posted a trade surplus in services with Korea, with an average of 10 percent growth annually since 2011, AmCham said.
As for possible US investments in North Korea, AmCham Chairman Kim said, "Unless there is a complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea, I don't think anything could happen."
In their latest interviews with US media, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton said the US is ready to allow investments in the North once it obtains verifiable proof of the rogue nation's denuclearization. (Yonhap)