Incheon International Airport (Yonhap)
South Korea and China agreed on Wednesday to exempt qualified businesspeople from the strict quarantine rules that otherwise apply to travelers entering their respective countries, in a move to facilitate trade-related travel despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Taking effect Friday, the “fast-track” entry procedures apply to Korean nationals visiting 10 regions in China for business purposes: the cities of Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing and the provinces of Liaoning, Shandong, Jiangsu, Guangdong, Shanxi, Sichuan and Anhui. But since only five of those areas -- Shanghai, Liaoning, Shandong, Jiangsu and Anhui -- are accessible via regular flights, Seoul officials said they would negotiate with China and seek to expand the procedures to more areas.
“We expect the increased economic exchanges through the ‘fast-track’ channel will contribute to minimize economic and social impacts due to COVID-19 for both countries,” said Vice Foreign Minister Lee Tae-ho, stressing that the systematic lifting of quarantine rules for businesspeople from foreign countries was a first for both countries since the COVID-19 crisis began.
To gain entry to China, a Korean businessperson must apply for a visa with a valid invitation letter approved by the local government in China. The travelers have to monitor their health for two weeks and must present proof that they have tested negative for COVID-19. The proof must be issued within three days before departure by one of the laboratories designated for this purpose by the Korean government.
Upon arrival in China, the visitor has to submit the invitation and the results of the medical examination at immigration, and will be transferred to a separate facility to be quarantined for one to two days. While in isolation, all travelers will be tested for COVID-19. Only those with negative test results will be allowed to leave the quarantine facility.
Chinese businesspeople traveling to Korea will also have to submit proof that they have tested negative for the coronavirus within three days before their departure. Upon arrival in Korea, they will be tested for COVID-19 again, and those with negative results will be able to conduct business activities under the government’s active surveillance.
China has banned most foreigners from entering the country since March 28 over coronavirus fears, though Beijing has issued a limited number of visas for economic, scientific, technological or humanitarian reasons. The visa holders are required to undergo at least two weeks of quarantine at designated facilities.
By Ahn Sung-mi (email@example.com