South Korea’s Jeju is pushing to introduce an electronic travel authorization system for foreigners from visa-free countries

(Korea Herald/Asia News Network)

SEOUL — Jeju, South Korea’s southernmost island, is pushing to introduce an electronic travel authorization system for foreigners from visa-free countries starting next month, officials said on Friday.

The plan to introduce the Korea Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA) came after dozens of Thai tourists who recently came to Jeju split from tour groups or were pushed back home over alleged trespassing attempts.

The K-ETA is an online electronic travel authorization that foreign visitors from visa-free countries must obtain prior to entering Korea for tourism, visiting relatives, or business. You must submit personal and other information through a website or mobile application.

South Korea first introduced K-ETA in September last year for 112 countries with which it has visa waiver agreements or other similar arrangements to enable visa-free entry. However, Jeju was barred from applying due to its unique legal status as an autonomous region.

The Justice Department previously said it was pushing to adopt K-ETA for Jeju as well.

On Friday, the Jeju Immigration Bureau under the ministry held a town meeting to explain K-ETA to residents and said it plans to adopt the program for the vacation island starting next month, the ministry said.

However, the officials stressed that since tourism is an important source of income for Jeju residents, they will first fully listen to the opinions of Jeju residents before introducing the system.

The move appears aimed at tightening screening for possible illegal entry by foreigners using the visa waiver program.

In June, about 38 Thai tourists who came to Jeju disappeared, and 26 of them were found to have been denied entry to Incheon, South Korea’s main gateway. About 90 other Thais from another tour group also remain missing.

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