Korea’s free economic zones announce new plans to build casinos, integrated resorts, and hospitals.
Authorities are trying hard to boost the economy in Korea and they’ve decided to place all their bets on tourism. Officials have announced that the country’s Free Economic Zones (FEZ) have plans to build more entertainment facilities in order to attract visitors.
But authorities know too well that it takes more than just casinos and resorts to get people to visit the country, so they’re also planning to ease visa regulations. This way, the offer should be more appealing to Chinese tourists, who are known to be the world’s biggest spenders.
Casinos, schools and hospitals
Online casinos that accept players from South Korea:
Eight FEZs – including Jeju Island, Yeongjongdo, and Songdo – are currently working on establishing new resorts, casinos, as well as hospitals, hoping to have all of these projects ready by the 2018 Pyeong Chang Winter Olympics. The idea is to make these areas as appealing as possible for Chinese tourists, as Korea aims to become a top travel destination for them.
The Ministry of Strategy and Finance, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning will meet later this month, to establish the details of these projects. Then they will report back to President Park Geun-hye.
Quoted by local newspapers, a government official told reporters: “All the ministries involved are discussing ways to boost the service industry. We will put the final touches on the plans.”
For now, it appears that most Chinese tourists choose Seoul and Jeju Islands as their primary travel destinations, but as the number of visitors increases, the government is looking to offer them more entertainment options. Now authorities are easing South Korean gambling laws to allow Yeongjongdo and Songdo to build more casinos, as well as schools and medical centers.
Gambling, only for tourists
All this is great news, of course, except that casinos are exclusively for tourists. The law forbids local gamblers from playing in any of the country’s casinos. Lawbreakers are punished with a minimum 3 year prison sentence and a fine up to $25,000.
For South Koreans, it’s only legal to play casino games with friends and family, provided the amount of money they wager doesn’t go over 10 cents. And while there are no specific laws regarding internet gambling in South Korea, locals do however access foreign-based online casinos.
Yeongjongdo has already officially received permission to develop a gambling venue exclusive to foreigners. Authorities added that LOCZ Korea will focus on entertainment businesses, and Songdo will turn its entire attention to the education and medical sectors. Jeju is planning to offer several medical centers for foreigners.
Under current laws, such medical facilities can only operate if they have foreign directors, and if more than 10% of their staff are foreign doctors. However, the government might ease these regulations too.
Multiple visas for Chinese visitors
In order to encourage Chinese tourists to visit the country, officials have decided to offer more multiple visas. These special documents will allow possessors to re-enter South Korea as often as they like, within a certain period of time. This way, tourists will be spared from all the hassle of going through the visa-obtaining process every time.
The whole process of getting a visa will be much shorter and easier, authorities say. In order to achieve this, the government will set up organizations that deal with exclusively with this problem, issuing documents and generally streamlining the process.
At the moment, a Chinese tourists who wants to come to South Korea has to wait about a week to get the necessary approval, while visitors from the European Union can obtain their visas in just two days.
The rules regarding medical and health checkups for foreigners will also be improved, as the government noted that 56,075 Chinese citizens received medical treatments in South Korea, over the past year. In 2009, their number was below 5,000.
All of these changes are meant to lure more Chinese tourists to South Korea, and it is very likely that officials will achieve their goal. In 2013, more than 4 million tourists from China came to visit the country. Compared to 2012, this number was 52.5% higher. More than 1.5 million have already visited South Korea this year, between January and April.
According to government officials, all these new policies targeted at Chinese tourists will help boost the local economy. At the moment, these visitors spend more than Germans and Americans, which is why South Korea is trying to make the best of it.