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South Korea Reopening – Latest Updates
October: South Korea lifts all remaining entry restrictions for international travelers
South Korea has been open to both vaccinated and unvaccinated visitors. Until July, however, unvaccinated visitors were subjected to quarantine upon arrival. Even after eliminating that rule, South Korea continued to require testing on arrival for both vaccinated and unvaccinated tourists.
Authorities have finally decided to drop mandatory testing upon arrival for all travelers, vaccinated or not, starting October 1.
September 27 – South Korea lifts mask-wearing restrictions from Sept. 26
South Korea decided Friday to lift all restrictions on outdoor masks starting September 26, according to local news outlets.
The decision was made at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Han Duck-soo, who decided that participants in outdoor gatherings of 50 or more people, as well as sporting events and concerts, will no longer be required to wear masks starting Monday, Yonhap news agency reported.
“We are clearly overcoming a critical moment of a resurgence in COVID-19,” Han said.
“Going forward, the government will ease low-risk anti-virus measures one by one after receiving feedback from experts,” he added.
Is South Korea open for tourism?
Yes, South Korea is open for tourism and dropped quarantine for fully vaccinated international travelers on April 1.
Who can travel to South Korea?
People from most countries can visit South Korea but different restrictions apply.
With a population of more than 51 million, South Korea is about a sixth the size of the United States but has an incredibly high population density.
Its capital and largest city, Seoul, has a population of more than 9 million, making it larger than New York City. Additionally, with high-speed trains and domestic flights, it’s a tightly linked country. Combined with its proximity to China and the sheer amount of trade between the two countries, many expected South Korea to suffer greatly.
But it hasn’t. Instead, South Korean authorities quickly began a comprehensive testing protocol whenever individuals were found to have symptoms of Covid-19.
Is it safe to visit South Korea now?
Regarding COVID-19, South Korea is a safe place to visit and the spread of the virus is under control. (CDC.gov).
What is the current COVID situation in South Korea?
As of today, the country has reported 24,848,184 COVID-19 cases and 28,528 deaths.
Why visit South Korea?
Once a traveler is in South Korea and out of quarantine, life largely looks like it did before the pandemic.
Trains, buses, and domestic flights are all operating at full capacity, and museums, shopping centers, and just about every other amenity one could think of are open to tourists. For those willing or able to wait for two weeks, South Korea is looking like pre-COVID South Korea.
Of course, there are some changes worth noting. Individuals are expected to wear a mask and social distance, and unlike the US, compliance is mandatory.
Not wearing a mask in public will get one in trouble with the authorities, and even before the police arrive will result in considerable consternation from the locals. After all, this is a country that is acutely aware that it is lucky through this whole ordeal precisely because it came together.
For those with the ability and need to go to South Korea, visiting the country can be an incredible experience. In addition to everything else that South Korea has to offer, the reduced stress of being in a country that has largely handled the pandemic will be a relief to many.
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South Korea reopening borders: Updates archives
September 12 – COVID-19 cases in South Korea fell to a 2-month low amidst the Chuseok break.
Sunday’s total was a significant decline from the previous day’s 42,724 due to the Chuseok holiday, or the Korean harvest celebration. The holiday began on Friday and will go until Monday.
It was also the lowest daily total since July 18, when it was 26,275. It was the lowest tally for any Sunday since July 10, when it stood at 20,383.
According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), the country reported 28,214 new COVID-19 infections, including 228 cases from other countries, bringing the overall caseload to 24,004,887.
August 30 – The South Korea Government could lift pre-arrival testing for some countries soon
The pre-arrival COVID-19 tests demanded of foreign visitors entering in South Korea are apparently being phased out by the South Korean government, with a start date coming sometime after the Chuseok national holiday next month.
It is extremely likely that the necessity for nations with low COVID-19 risk will be eliminated in the beginning, with the eventual goal of eliminating all pre-arrival testing.
“While our ultimate goal is to abolish all pre-arrival testing, we’re considering loosening the requirements incrementally, starting with countries that pose a low risk, given that many South Koreans are still cautious about the COVID-19 virus, as we see with the number of people who continue to wear masks outdoors,” they added.
August – South Korea will not take further action over the new Omicron spike
The country has been gradually lifting restrictions over the last few months. Now with the new summer spike, the country has not announced the resumption of any Covid-19 restrictions.
A daily average of 101,290 cases and 31 fatalities have been reported so far in August, up from the average of 80,648 cases and 24 fatalities between July 25 and July 31. The number of COVID-19 patients who passed away on Friday and Saturday was 92, the largest number since mid-May following a lethal omicron wave that peaked in March.
Yoo Myoung-soon, a professor of public health communications at Seoul National University, claims that South Koreans are “less anxious” about COVID-19 now than they were during the earlier phases of the pandemic.
July – South Korea is seeing a spike in infections, new restrictions are not off the table
The number of COVID-19 infections in South Korea has surpassed 40,000, and the government has issued a warning about a possible five-fold increase in the next months.
“Daily infections could soar to as many as 200,000 between mid-August and late September,” Prime Minister Han Duck-soo told a government COVID response meeting, citing the view of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) and experts.
After the number of infections declined from a peak of more than 600,000 per day in mid-March, South Korea lifted most pandemic-related restrictions including a requirement that people wear masks outdoors.
Han said that while the government has no current plans to reintroduce restrictions, it does not rule them out if the situation COVID “changes significantly.”
June – South Korea continues to relax Covid-19 restrictions at international airports
South Korea has taken a number of initiatives to ease entry restrictions for visitors from abroad. Airports are already operating at pre-pandemic levels as the country prepares for summer tourism in 2022.
Previously, only travelers who were fully vaccinated could avoid a one-week quarantine.
Tourists entering South Korea will no longer be required to enter their vaccination information into the country’s Quarantine Covid-19 Defense (Q-code) system. This used to be a requirement.
Regulations for Incheon International Airport have also been significantly relaxed.
June – South Korea has lifted Mandatory Quarantine for Unvaccinated Travelers
Beginning June 8, unvaccinated foreign visitors to South Korea will no longer be required to observe a mandatory seven-day quarantine.
South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo announced the decision, during a meeting on pandemic containment on June 3
“While there was a seven-day quarantine obligation for non-vaccinated foreign arrivals until now, such requirement will be eliminated from June 8 regardless of their vaccination status,” Prime Minister Han said.
All travelers visiting South Korea, on the other hand, will be required to submit a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result prior to entering the country and to perform a PCR test within 72 hours of arriving.
May 16 – South Korea to further ease entry restrictions from May 23
Starting May 23, not only PCR Covid-19 test will be recognized as a valid test result but it will also recognize negative rapid antigen test results for travelers boarding flights to South Korea.
According to Interior Minister Lee Sang-min, South Korea plans to increase the number of weekly flights on overseas routes from 420 in April and 532 in May to 762 in June to meet rising demand.
The decision was made as new daily infections in South Korea have been declining in recent weeks after peaking at more than 620,000 on March 17 amid the spread of the Omicron variant.
May 2- South Korea to remove outdoor mask mandate from May 2
In the latest move to loosen Covid-19 measures, South Korea said Friday it will eliminate the outdoor face mask mandate from May 2.
Starting today, people will only be required to wear masks outdoors if they are part of a group of more than 50 people or are attending sports or cultural events that could draw large crowds.
The mask requirement indoors and on public transportation remains in place.
It is possible that this decision will be overturned, given the opposition from the next government, which has called the measure “premature.”
April 19 – South Korea to remove almost all pandemic restrictions
Most Covid-19 restrictions have been removed in South Korea due to decreased infection rates.
Restaurants and other establishments are no longer subject to nighttime curfews, and there are no longer restrictions on the number of people allowed to congregate.
In addition, tourists and residents will be allowed to eat while attending indoor public facilities such as cinemas and stadiums starting next week.
Face masks are still needed, although the requirement to wear them outdoors could be lifted in two weeks.
April 6 – South Korea lifts quarantine restrictions to fully vaccinated travelers
International travelers who have registered their vaccination on South Korea’s Q-code website will be able to enter the country without the mandatory 7-day quarantine beginning April 1.
If more than 180 days have passed since the second vaccination, travelers must have a booster shot to be considered fully vaccinated.
According to the Korea Tourism Organization website, tourists are given a QR code to scan through the Q-code system upon entry.
Travelers must provide authorities with information such as passport number, country of departure, airline, phone number and proof of vaccination.
March 20 – South Korea to phase out quarantine for fully vaccinated travelers from March 21
Starting Mar. 21, travelers who were vaccinated in Korea will be exempt from quarantine, while overseas visitors who have received a WHO-approved vaccine will be permitted to skip the requirement from Apr. 1, said The Korean Ministry of Health.
In both cases, the last dose must have been received within 180 days of travel.
Inbound passengers will still be required to show proof of a negative PCR test taken within 48 prior to travel, as well as testing on Day 1 and Day 6/7 of their stay.
The new ruling will not apply to passengers from “high-risk” listed countries including Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Myanmar.
February 24 – South Korea relaxes COVID-19 rules amidst record Omicron cases
South Korea’s Prime Minister has asked citizens to remain “calm” after registering a record number of COVID-19 cases. In the last 24 hours, the country registered over 170,006 infections.
Despite the news, authorities decided to loosen some COVID restrictions. The obligatory closing of bars, cafes, and restaurants, which has been in effect since December, would be relaxed by one hour, from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The ministry anticipates daily infections to range between 180,000 and 270,000 over the following weeks.
January 14 – South Korea has slightly increased its gathering size limit
Starting Jan. 17, South Korea will increase the private gathering size limit from four to six fully vaccinated people.
According to local news outlets, the decision comes as the number of daily Covid-19 cases has dropped to roughly 4,000 in recent days after peaking at over 7,000 last month.
Most other existing restrictions will be maintained said the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
December 18 – South Korea to reimpose severe COVID-19 restrictions due to a spike in cases
South Korea will reimpose stringent COVID-19 restrictions due to an increase in COVID-19 cases. The announcement comes only 6 weeks after the country announced it was ready to “live with COVID-19.”
Starting Jan. 2, unvaccinated people must eat by themselves or take food home. Gatherings among the vaccinated will be limited to a maximum of 4 people.
“We’re making all-out efforts to overcome the pressing crisis by expanding our medical capacity and vaccination campaign, but we need time,” said Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum at an intra-agency meeting.
December 6 – South Korea is reversing the reopening phase that started last month
Following the confirmation of the first cluster of the Omicron strain in a local church, South Korea will temporarily halt the reopening that began in November, officials announced on Friday.
“Our gradual recovery of daily life is now facing its most serious threat yet… All pandemic indicators across the country are sending danger signals,” said Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum.
Beginning Dec. 6, the government will reduce the maximum number of people allowed in social gatherings and require confirmation of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test for access to restaurants, cafes, and other venues.
November 14 – South Korea plans to launch travel bubble with the Philippines and Japan
South Korea is reportedly working with the Philippines to launch a travel bubble with the Philippines as confirmed by the Philippines’ Secretary of Tourism on Friday.
The country has started to relax COVID-19 restrictions as part of a “living with Covid-19” campaign that includes reducing restaurant curfews, reopening sporting venues to half capacity, and implementing vaccine passports for bars, nightclubs, and indoor gyms.
October 8 – South Korea – Singapore to open a free-quarantine travel bubble On Nov. 15
Effective Nov. 15, fully vaccinated travelers will be permitted to travel between South Korea and Singapore without quarantine, both governments announced earlier today.
The new Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) is the “first of its kind between two major aviation hubs in Asia,” reads the press release.
South Korea Minister of Transport added that both countries agreed on the mutual recognition of Covid-19 vaccination certificates.
Travelers still need to undergo pre-departure testing.
October 30 – South Korea will lift multiple COVID-19 curbs on Nov. 1
As it moves to “live with Covid-19,” South Korea announced on Friday that it will lift all operating-hour restrictions on bars and restaurants as it introduces its brand-new vaccine passport for gyms, saunas, and bars, all of the considered high-risk facilities.
Authorities, however, will remain vigilant to avoid any outbreaks that may jeopardize their plans.
“We are concerned, especially ahead of Halloween this weekend, that there might be many violations of social distancing rules,” said the minister of health on Wednesday.
September 14 – South Korea’s Covid-19 activity threatens plans to lift domestic restrictions
Last Wednesday, South Korean health officials reported more than 2,000 new Covid-19 cases in just one day. A record number not seen in the country since the pandemic began.
The vaccination rate remains high as well as the spread of the virus.
“We see this as a very dangerous sign,” said Park Hyang, a senior health official in Seoul, “We urge residents of the Seoul metropolitan area to exercise extreme caution. The virus is rapidly spreading, and infections can occur at any time and in any place.”
The government has set November as the month to return to “normal”. However, officials added that in order for the country to open up, cases must be reduced.
August 28 – South Korea to resume travel with the European Union on Sept. 1 Says government
South Korea diplomatic officials have informed the country will lift restrictions on travelers from the European Union (EU) and Schengen Area starting Sept. 1.
EU and Schengen Area travelers will be able to enjoy a 90-day visit without a visa.
There’s a catch. Travelers will need to observe a 14-day mandatory quarantine upon arrival in South Korea at their own expense.
August 11 – South Korea extends social distancing restrictions through Aug. 22 as it exceeds 2,000 daily COVID cases
For the very first time since the onset of the pandemic, South Korea has surpassed more than 2,000 COVID-19 cases per day.
Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol asked Koreans to stay home during the holiday break on Friday, because “in our fight against COVID-19, we are entering a new phase, a new crisis,” said the minister earlier today.
A few days before, President Moon Jae-in expressed his concerns about the extent of the spread, “what’s most concerning is the virus’ recent spread in the non-capital areas,” Moon said at an intra-agency meeting.
In a desperate attempt to contain the nationwide outbreak, the government decided to extend its severe social distancing restrictions through August 22.
July 11 – South Korea to reintroduce heavy COVID-19 restrictions on July 12
The ease on COVID-19 restrictions is not working as expected for the South Korean government.
With new cases skyrocketing, Prime Minister Kim Bu-gyeom called on Koreans to continue observing precautions as the delta variant spreads in the capital.
“Our fight against COVID-19 is facing a grave crisis just as life was slowly returning to normal,” he said “the trends in and around Seoul are especially troubling, with 90 percent of the highly transmissible delta variant cases found there.”
The epidemiology situation will be revisited on July 11, and if it has not improved severe restrictions will be imposed on Koreans once again.
“If the situation is not under control after monitoring for two to three days, it might leave us with no choice but to impose the strictest of all social distancing levels,” said the minister.
With the new restrictions, gatherings of more than 2 people will be banned after 6pm and schools will close.
June 24 – South Korea-Singapore travel corridor (ATB) set to open in July
South Korea has been seeking to sign “travel bubble agreements” with at least five Asian countries over the weeks to come.
Not much has been said about the others but at least the travel agreement with Singapore seems to be on track.
Both governments remain “committed to launching the ATB with a view to resuming air travel between the two regional aviation hubs and international cities in a gradual and orderly manner under a set of stringent public health protocols,” according to a press release issued by Hong Kong’s government.
As of now, domestic restrictions are poised to be dramatically loosened as of July 1 as Singapore has managed to control the latest outbreak of COVID-19.