Disclaimer: The travel rules and official government instructions are changing rapidly during the pandemic times and this article might NOT be up to date within a matter of hours. Therefore, you should always double-check the information with local authorities or your embassy in a given destination. Traveling Lifestyle does not take any responsibility for your decision to travel during pandemic.
Despite having a population equivalent to the states of California, Washington, and Oregon combined contained in an area slightly larger than the state of Maine, South Korea has done an enviable job of controlling the spread of Covid-19.
Because of frequent testing and a society that has dealt with the specter of pandemics before, it’s no surprise that South Korea is able to quickly reopen its borders.
Which countries can enter South Korea during pandemic?
All countries are allowed to enter South Korea but everybody must undergo self-quarantine for 14days and a PCR test on arrival. (source)
Can American citizens enter South Korea?
Yes, American citizens are allowed to enter South Korea.
What is the current COVID situation in South Korea?
As of October 19th, South Korea has 25,275 positive COVID cases and 444confirmed deaths caused by the virus. Daily rates are between 40 to 90 new positive cases. (Source: Wikipedia)
The information below was up to date as of Sept 7th but the situation and regulation haven’t changed since then.
Around 10 days ago it seemed like South Korea is experiencing 2nd wave of Coronavirus and lockdowns might come to the place. The daily COVID number started climbing up to 441 per day but as of this week, there are steadily decreasing to around 100 per day.
At the moment, the Government hasn’t announced any new plans for reopening and the country continues with its strong restrictions (listed below). Since the situation is stabilizing again, some changes and reopening towards “green list” countries can be expected.
One area where visitors will still notice that South Korea does have some restrictions in place is regarding international flights. These are still being operated at a fraction of pre-COVID-19 levels.
Additionally worth mentioning is that now that the borders have reopened, even Americans are allowed to enter and do not require a visa to visit South Korea for stays of up to 90 days.
From the time that the flights land, South Korea’s government takes measures to make sure that additional cases of Covid-19 are not introduced to the country.
Unlike many other states, where a negative test is sufficient to allow individuals to continue onwards, South Korea has acknowledged the fact that exposure could well happen on the flight into the country.
As a result, all arriving international passengers are required to self-isolate in quarantine for a full 14 days.This is to be done at the personal expense of any international travelers, but the South Korean government has sought to subsidize food and other requirements for those who arrive in the country.
A number of social media posts have featured these ‘care packages’ courtesy of the South Korean government, equipped with everything from instant noodles to baby’s diapers.
Once the quarantine period is up, individuals are allowed to move freely around the country.
However, South Korea has managed to keep Covid-19 from spreading because of an aggressive campaign of testing and contact tracing. If an individual does come down with Covid-19, the government and health authorities will work to make sure that anyone that they come in contact with enters isolation in order to prevent further spread of the virus.
Failure to comply with those measures, or anything else regarding the security of the population at large in the face of the pandemic will be cause for police action, up to and including expulsion from the country.
Therefore, be prepared to comply with instructions from authorities, even if it means having to be re-quarantined if exposure has been confirmed.
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 would expect South Korea to suffer greatly.
But it didn’t. Instead, South Korean authorities quickly began a comprehensive testing protocol whenever individuals were found to have symptoms of Covid-19.
Because of this, combined with a culture that is already used to wearing masks, the country has done incredibly well. While Covid-19 has not been eliminated in the country, it’s down to around 120 new cases per day. Most of those are being cured rather quickly.
As a result, most domestic transportation, like trains and planes, are now running at full capacity. While one will still see masks on South Korea’s streets, this is viewed as a precautionary measure to slow the virus.
In fact, South Korea has done so well with regards to Covid-19 that it is one of the primary exporters of personal protective equipment to the rest of the world.
Is life back to normal in 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.
Additionally, all surfaces and public areas are being sanitized with increased frequency. While the government is betting that it has done a great deal to slow the spread of Covid-19, it has shown no signs of complacency until a vaccine is developed and administered to the population.
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.
Of course, it is worth keeping in mind that individuals, regardless of nationality, will be forced to quarantine for two weeks, and that the virus is taken seriously. That said, South Korea has done everything right with regards to the virus, and now is an incredible time to visit.