South Korea is set to resume visa-free travel for Hong Kong residents starting on July 1, Seoul’s consulate has announced.
The country is the latest after Japan to open its doors to Hong Kong residents in the past month, but they still have to undergo a seven-day compulsory quarantine upon returning to the city.
Hong Kong is among the more than 100 destinations granted visa-free travel to South Korea, but such access remains suspended for visitors from cities including Macau and Taiwan. China’s status was not mentioned.
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At present, a pre-departure negative Covid-19 test is required for all travellers to South Korea over six years old regardless of vaccination status. They have to conduct a supervised rapid antigen test at a clinic or hospital within 24 hours or a polymerase chain reaction test within two days ahead of departure.
Holders of both Hong Kong SAR and the British National Overseas passports, now derecognised by the city government, can enter the country without a visa for short-term trips such as tourism, business meetings and family visits, according to a notice issued on Monday.
But travellers will still need to apply for the Korea Electronic Travel Authorisation (K-ETA) and obtain approval at least 72 hours before boarding a plane or ship bound for the country.
Applicants need to provide a valid passport, an email address, a headshot image and pay a 10,000 won (HK$60) fee in order to apply for the K-ETA, which is valid for multiple trips within two years from the approval date.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Seoul previously suspended visa exemptions and visa-free entry for foreign nationals of up to 90 countries.
Hong Kong on Tuesday recorded 1,198 Covid-19 cases, the eighth straight day of more than 1,000 new infections.
The daily tally, comprising 1,076 local and 122 imported infections, marked a drop from 1,327 cases confirmed a day ago. The city’s coronavirus tally now stands at 1,229,094, with 9,396 related deaths.
Health officials confirmed 177 cases involving pupils from 144 schools on Tuesday, resulting in a week-long suspension for one class and two extracurricular basketball and Thai boxing lessons.
In a check by the Post on Tuesday, the city’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific Airways has scheduled flights to the Incheon International Airport on Sundays and Fridays.
Hong Thai Travel Services, one of the largest agencies in Hong Kong, said there was no increase in inquiries despite the entry relaxation. In response to the new arrangements, it resumed a seven-day group tour to Seoul on Tuesday, it added.
Meanwhile, a tour group from Hong Kong will depart for Japan on June 22. It will be among the first since the country eased border restrictions on June 10 to allow foreign tourists to enter for the first time in over two years. The group will be subject to a seven-day mandatory quarantine upon returning to Hong Kong.
Separately, Macau’s health authorities said its three-day universal testing project was completed on Tuesday, uncovering 21 positive cases as at noon out of more than 677,000 residents screened.
Travel giant Expedia Group told the Post that while it was still too early to identify a specific uptick in travel search following the Korean government’s announcement, flight data on its booking website highlighted a “growing trend over the past six months” in Hongkongers’ interest in visiting South Korea.
“Compared to January 2022, the average daily search in June to date for outbound flights to South Korea grew more than 520 per cent, indicating heightened interest among Hong Kong travellers in visiting South Korea. When looking at the month-on-month trend, the average daily search for flights to Korea in June to date is almost 30 per cent higher than that of the previous month,” said Lavinia Rajaram, its Asia head of public relations.
“As more countries and destinations continue to relax entry requirements, and Hong Kong approaches the traditional summer peak travel season, Expedia expects outbound travel demand will continue to grow.”
Additional reporting by Victor Ting
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