To prevent the spread of COVID-19, South Korea requires enhanced travel requirements, such as the health condition report form and consent to quarantine.
- Thinking about traveling to Korea when it’s safe and possible? Know that, most likely, there will be changes to the tourist visa application process, requirements, and entry procedure.
- At the moment, those traveling with diplomatic, official, or humanitarian purpose may apply for a visa provided that they agree to undergo isolation, fill out a health condition report form, and submit a medical certificate.
- It is not yet determined if Korea’s enhanced travel requirements will apply to tourists in the future, but you can check back in this article for updates.
- If you’d like to explore Seoul or your home country when conditions permit, use WAUG — the No. 1 activity booking platform from South Korea. Sign up for an account here and get the $3 discount coupon for new members!
First things first: Is it safe to travel to South Korea?
I was one of those who flew into South Korea when things were looking bad. I arrived on March 16, two weeks after the government reported their highest number of daily confirmed cases to date. It was the time when — next to China — Korea had the most number of coronavirus cases in the world. However, as you may know, it’s no longer the situation these days.
I’m only on my second month in Seoul (I’m here for work), but I can say that moving here was a good decision. It may be too early to say, but I’m constantly reassured by two things: the Korean government is equipped and determined to flatten the curve, and people cooperate by observing practices that mitigate the coronavirus spread. It’s the kind of dynamics that explains why South Korea is successful in dealing with the pandemic without a major lockdown — something that many people here feel good about and I’m thankful for these days. ROK’s Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo talks about this in a TIME article by Charlie Campbell:
We never considered a full lockdown as part of our policy response to COVID-19… South Korea is a democracy which respects and ensures the individual freedom of the people as much as possible, so we relied on people’s voluntary cooperation based on their trust in public anti-epidemic authorities.South Korea’s Health Minister on How His Country Is Beating Coronavirus Without a Lockdown, TIME.com
Of course, even when there’s been no lockdown, social distancing is observed in Korea. From what I can say and from what my colleagues tell me, older people tend to stay home on weekends these days. If they feel bored, they’ll find something to do within their neighborhood. Some travel far with family to places like Jeju-do, but they make sure to time their visit when there’s not a lot of people in the island. On the other hand, those in their 40’s and under are more visible, at least in Seoul. While they can’t be in the stadium to enjoy KBO matches, you’ll spot them in cafes, restaurants, attractions, parks, and shopping districts.
It’s also not uncommon to hear someone getting away after the work week. My office buddy spent the last four weekends outside Seoul and went hiking, camping, and paragliding. (He’ll go surfing next.) I, for one, have been discovering laidback hang-out spots in the capital, like Seongsu, Hapjeong, Apgujeong, and Sinsa (the farthest I’ve gone to this year was Gwacheon). Other people spend their weekends in famous spots like Everland and Lotte World. These attractions remain open for public enjoyment, but visitors are expected to wear a mask, use sanitizer, and undergo body temperature check upon entry.
While it’s not the time to fully let our guards down, I think we can always find the balance in pursuing leisurely activities and protecting our health. This is what WAUG, Korea’s No. 1 travel activity booking app, has been working on since the onset of the crisis. Our team has spent time designing experiences and discovering activities that locals are able to enjoy, which was discussed in this article by our CEO & Co-founder Yoon Sun-woo. (For tips on how you can practice responsible tourism during this period, check out this article.)
South Korea’s Enhanced Travel Requirements
Since I’ve seen a couple of posts on social media from people who plan to visit Korea in the future, I thought of sharing about the enhanced travel requirements that are currently in place for eligible visitors (note that the following information may change without notice). These were implemented after the government suspended various short-term Korean visas around the world, visa-waiver programs, and visa-free entry arrangements with certain countries, as shown below:
Currently, those who are able to apply for a Korean visa are people with diplomatic, official, and humanitarian reasons only (e.g. death in the family). Those who plan to engage in essential business activities, as well as foreigners who are family members (spouse or child) of a Korean national, may also apply for a visa. The following documents must be submitted in addition to the basic requirements (vary per country):
1. Health Condition Report Form
The form may be downloaded here. It seeks to know the following:
- Travel history (all cities that the applicant visited 30 days prior to application)
- Symptoms, including fever, cough, chills, headache, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath, etc.
- Medication taken, if any
Note that providing false information on the Health Condition Report form may result into a denial of visa or entry into South Korea.
2. Medical Certificate
The medical certificate is part of Korea’s enhanced travel requirements. It should have the physician’s name, signature, contact information, and hospital stamp or seal. More importantly, it should state the presence or absence of symptoms, like fever, cough, chills, headache, muscle pain, and pneumonia.
The examination must have been facilitated by a doctor in person and occurred within 48 hours prior to the submission of visa requirements. Long-term visa applicants (or those who intend to stay in Korea for more than 90 days) require an additional diagnosis of tuberculosis.
Depending on the Korean Embassy or Consulate in your country, you may have to secure the medical assessment from a designated hospital. Those in the Philippines are instructed to have their health exam in any of the following institutions:
- St Luke’s Medical Center – Global City
- St Luke’s Medical Center – Quezon City
- Makati Medical Center
- Manila Doctors Hospital
- The Medical City
- Lung Center of the Philippines
- Cebu Doctors Hospital
- Southern Philippines Medical Center
- Baguio Medical Center
3. Consent to Quarantine
In addition to the core documents, the applicant should submit an accomplished Consent to Quarantine form. This enhanced travel requirement contains the following terms that the applicant must accept:
- Undergo quarantine for 14 days inside a conducive place (long-term visitor may pick the location, but guesthouses and hotels are not permitted) or a facility designated by the Korean government
- If the applicant is a short-term visitor or someone who chooses to undergo quarantine in a designated facility, he or she must pay ₩2,100,000 (around $1,750) for food, accommodation, and transportation costs for the entire period.
Exemption from Quarantine in Korea
Diplomats and government officials under an A-visa are exempted from isolation if they test negative on COVID-19 upon arrival. In lieu of quarantine, they will be subject to “Active Monitoring,” which consists of regular health check via the Self-Diagnosis App and calls from health authorities.
Some Korean diplomatic offices may also allow certain travelers to apply for the Isolation Exemption Certificate. This may be given to those who have urgent matters to attend to. Documents required to get this certificate include an explanation letter written by the Korean company involved, invitation letter from the company, and certificate of business registration, among others. For more information, contact the nearest Korean Embassy or consulate near you.
Entry Procedure & Quarantine in Korea
1. Take the COVID-19 Test
Effective May 11, 2020, all inbound travelers will have to undergo testing for COVID-19 regardless if they show symptoms or not. This will happen immediately or a couple of days after the person’s arrival (includes returning Korean nationals), most likely at a walk-thru screening station. The visitor will have to wait for the result at a temporary living facility. If the test shows negative, the foreigner may leave and proceed with the 14-day quarantine period in their home or a government-designated location.
Those who are under a long-term stay (living in Korea) must go directly to their residence via a private car or designated vehicle (airport limousine bus or KTX). They should also call their local health center as soon as possible and report that they are under quarantine.
2. Download the Monitoring App
Those who will isolate outside of the government-designated facility must download the Self-Quarantine Safety Protection App. This is where the user will share self-diagnosis twice each day. Here is the link to get the app from Google Play Store and here’s the one for the App Store.
Those will have their quarantine in a government-designated facility will have to download the Self Diagnosis App here. Below is a video that shows how to install it:
3. Isolate in a government-designated location
Curious about what happens before and during the mandatory quarantine in South Korea? Read: What’s Quarantine in Korea Like?
4. For quarantine violators, wear a safety wristband
Entrants to Korea are expected to follow these instructions for quarantine. If they’re found to violate any of the guidelines, they will have to wear a safety wristband for close monitoring. Depending on the weight of the violation, they may also face a criminal sanction, which may include imprisonment for up to one (1) year and a fine of up to ₩10,000,000 (around $8,140).
5. Be free & explore more
Once the applicant completes the isolation period and prove that he or she is in good medical condition, they’ll be free to go and enjoy the best of what Korea has to offer.
Plan your trip to Seoul
Use WAUG — the No. 1 activity booking platform from South Korea! 🇰🇷
Before You Go
If you’d like to stay updated on Korea’s enhanced travel requirements amid COVID-19, you can always check back in this article. I’ll try to update it as soon as major updates are announced.