Kim Do-hyon, ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Vietnam, said Monday afternoon that the C-3 visas will be granted to permanent residents of the three Vietnam's biggest cities Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang without any occupational priority from December 3 onwards.
C-3 visa holders can stay in South Korea for up to 30 days, with no restrictions on number of visits for five years.
Kim said the new policy reciprocated the affection Vietnamese football fans have lavished on the South Korean coach of the national men’s football team.
"The Vietnamese show affection towards Mr. Park, Korean government reciprocates that love of the Vietnamese people," he said.
Vietnamese football fans have dubbed Park Hang-seo a "wizard" following a rare string of successes by his team. Under his lead, Vietnamese football finished runner-up at the AFC U23 Championship last January, and fourth at the Asian Games in September. Park is treated as a celebrity in Vietnam, where ads featuring him are common.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in had said in March that Vietnam was the country’s most important partner in Southeast Asia and a key partner in its New Southern Policy.
With the new visa policy, South Korea hopes to increase business cooperation, investment, and promote exchanges between the two nations, ambassador Kim said.
He also hoped that many Vietnamese would go to South Korea for tourism and medical treatment, strengthening the friendship between two countries.
Ambassador Kim noted that South Korea was going ahead with its visa policy despite the high rate of illegal Vietnamese residents in the country - 35 percent out of the total number of illegal foreigner residents.
"I hope the two countries will have a close relationship like a family, a common culture and economy," he said.
The Korea Times said on Monday, citing South Korea's Ministry of Justice, that from December 3, the Korean government will also issue multi-entry visas to eligible nationals from Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. Indonesians were already granted the visa, according to media reports from April.
Le Viet Ha, a Hanoi native who is doing his postgraduate studies in South Korea, welcomed the new policy.
A former president of Vietnamese Student Association at Chonnam National University in the southwest of South Korea, Ha reckoned this visa does not apply to Vietnamese students to South Korea who would still have to go through the laborious process of getting a student visa. However, he said the policy would benefit the students’ family members.
"Before, each student can only have a maximum of two family members visiting them in South Korea. With this visa policy, there will be no limit," Ha told VnExpress International.
"I also think many people can travel to South Korea to experience the country before making their minds about studying or working here, thanks to this visa. Prior to this, there were a lot of paper requirements to prove financial status which is difficult for students," Ha said.
Kang Hyunji, an elementary school teacher in South Korea, said that the visa policy would benefit those in the tourism industry as there will be more Vietnamese travelers.
However, it can cause confusion and disturbances, she felt.
"Not many people know Korean, or know our laws that might be different from that of Vietnam, and this could cause some confusion," she said.
The number of Vietnamese arrivals in South Korea in the first 10 months of 2018 was 440,000, more than 380,000 in 2017. Corresponding figures for South Korean visitors to Vietnam were 2.6 million and 2.4 million.
In the future, South Korea will apply the five-year visa to Vietnam's other popular urban centers Hai Phong, Da Lat and Nha Trang, and, hopefully, Kim said, for Vietnamese citizens as a whole in the future.
The ambassador said he would pay more attention to labor visas and make proposals to increase quotas for Vietnamese workers in different industries and the service sector.
15 days not enough
Vietnam allows South Korean citizens to stay for 15 days without a visa, Kim noted, adding that this was not sufficient considering the working needs of businesses and representatives of Korean agencies in Vietnam.
He proposed that Vietnam extends the duration for one month and drop the restriction on re-entering Vietnam with visa exemption only after 30 days from the date of the last departure.
Kim noted that Vietnam was becoming a Southeast Asian hub, with many agencies and corporations from his country moving their offices from other locations to Vietnam. South Korean businesses are investing millions of dollars in Vietnam, he said.
"Hopefully the two countries will become economic allies in the future," he added.
It is expected that South Korea will establish a consulate in Da Nang in central Vietnam next year.
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