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Seoul welcomes expedited screening for Panmunjom tours

Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul (left) inspects tourism routes at the truce village of Panmunjom in Paju, Gyeonggi, during a visit to the demilitarized zone earlier this month. (Yonhap)
Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul (left) inspects tourism routes at the truce village of Panmunjom in Paju, Gyeonggi, during a visit to the demilitarized zone earlier this month. (Yonhap)

The Unification Ministry on Monday welcomed the United Nations Command’s plan to drastically reduce the screening period required for South Koreans to tour the demilitarized border village of Panmunjom.

“It’s a very positive move that can resolve inconvenience of the citizens,” said ministry spokesperson Yoh Sang-key in a regular briefing. “The Unification Ministry has been negotiating with the United Nations Command since the latter half of last year to cut the period from 14 days to three. The UNC told us last week that it could shorten the period.”

Currently, it takes up to two weeks for South Korean nationals to receive security clearance for the border area, while an average of three days is needed for non-Koreans. After the upcoming change, it will take three days to obtain authorization for all visitors. 

The UNC, which is in charge of authorization procedures, is seeking to resume the tour as early as next month. The visits to the inter-Korean border village were suspended last September due to the outbreak of African swine fever.

“The quarantine officials will test the samples of wild boars in the area within May, and once it’s guaranteed safe, the tours are expected to resume,” said Yoh.

But considering the coronavirus pandemic and quarantine efforts, the tours are expected to be conducted with a smaller number of visitors each time.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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