SEOUL - More than 1,000 travellers from companies including Samsung and LG have benefited from a "fast-track" entry agreement between South Korea and China that exempts them from strict quarantine measures so they can conduct business amid the pandemic.
The deal took effect from May 1 and covers 10 regions in China where there are major business exchanges between the two countries - Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Liaoning, Shandong, Jiangsu, Guangdong, Shanxi, Sichuan and Anhui.
This marked the first time both sides have allowed foreigners to enter without the usual restrictions, said South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Mofa).
To qualify, a Korean businessman planning to visit China must first get the host company to apply for an official invitation issued by the local government. He can then apply for a visa allowing him to enter China if he follows the "special disease control procedure" agreed by both sides.
This requires him to monitor his own health for at least 14 days before the travel date and test for the virus at a designated hospital within 72 hours of departure.
Upon arriving in China, he will have to stay at a state-assigned facility for one or two days and undergo a blood test and a genetic test for the virus.
A Chinese businessman entering South Korea must submit a document certifying that he tested negative for Covid-19 within 72 hours before departure. He will undergo another test upon arrival.
Mofa said the agreement will "contribute to minimising economic and social impact of Covid-19" in South Korea and China. It added that the two sides will "make efforts to improve the effectiveness of the procedure" and hold discussions to "expand the scope of its application".
A Mofa spokesman told The Straits Times that more than 1,000 people from both countries have used fast-track entry and there are plans to add more Chinese regions to the agreement.
LG was the first to use the initiative, sending 252 technicians to Nanjing in Jiangsu province on May 3.
Samsung vice-chairman Lee Jae-yong then visited the company's memory chip plant in Xian (Shanxi province) on May 18, before sending 300 engineers and workers there on May 22.