South Korea is reopening its visa-free entry to Jeju Island and Yangyang County to most countries, including the Philippines, on June 1. But it may not be as easy for Filipino tourists.
In case you missed it, the South Korean government has announced earlier this month that international travelers can enter Jeju and Yangyang without a visa through its international airports.
This visa-waiver program has long been implemented by the South Korean Government prior to the pandemic. However, it was suspended in February 2020 to protect locals against COVID-19.
The country reopened its visa-waiver program to over 46 countries, excluding the Philippines, on April 1. Almost a month later, on May 4, South Korea's Minister of the Interior and Safety Jeon Hae-cheol announced the expansion of the program to most international travelers on June 1.
"Following the implementation of quarantine exemptions last month for those entering the country from abroad, visa-free entry from June 1 will be allowed at the Jeju airport, which suspended its visa-waiver program in February 2020, and the Yangyang airport, which is in a region preparing international events," Jeon said in a meeting with the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters.
According to the Korean Tourism Organization, most countries will be allowed visa-free entry to Jeju, except for 10 countries and 24 regions, such as Japan, Hong Kong, and Macau, that have mutually suspended the program with Korea.
Now here's the catch: Since there is no direct flight from the Philippines to Jeju, Filipino tourists who would like to visit the "Island of Gods" must take a connecting flight from Incheon to Gimpo airport.
To do that, you must first have a valid South Korea visa.
Meanwhile, tourists from these countries or regions are still required to apply for a visa when entering the province: Iran, Sudan, Syria, Macedonia, Cuba, Kosovo, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ghana, Nigeria, Yemen, Egypt, Gambia, Senegal, Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Nepal, Cameroon, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar.
The South Korean government is also requiring tourists entering Yangyang International Airport from the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia to visit the province in groups of five and course their trip through a designated travel agency. The waiver will be applied to tourists from Mongolia in October.
Update: On Tuesday, May 31, the Embassy of the Republic of Korea announced that Filipino tourists are now allowed to enter Jeju Island and Yangyang visa-free starting June 1.
"The Korean Embassy hopes that the visa-free entry will promote people-to-people exchanges between Korea and the Philippines via tourism," said the announcement.
It also noted that tourists are only allowed to enter the island via direct flights only and stay up to 30 days, and are not allowed to travel to other regions outside Jeju. While there are no direct flights to the region yet, the Embassy said that "some airlines are reportedly planning to schedule direct flights from the Philippines to Jeju soon."
Meanwhile, those who wish to visit Yangyang must book a group tour program arranged by a designated travel agency to be able to enter the region. Tourists are only allowed to stay up to 15 days and go around the cities and places in Gangwon Province and Seoul Metropolitan Area only. They also must travel back to the Philippines via the Yangyang International airport.