13 Thais skipped flights home from South Korea
The Korean Justice Ministry reported that 13 out of a group of 174 Thai tourists who arrived in South Korea have gone missing. The group arrived via a chartered flight at Muan Airport last Monday but 13 individuals did not show up to board their return flight on Sunday.
Muan Airport is located in South Jeolla Province, on the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula. It is 385 kilometres south of Seoul. Korea resumed international flights in July of last year, following a two-year halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But this Thai charter flight was the first international flight to the airport since the pandemic.
This is not the first time that tourists have gone missing in South Korea. In August, 55 Thai tourists disappeared after flying into Jeju Island, known for its lax entry requirements as it is a major tourist destination. And in October of last year, 100 Vietnamese tourists also disappeared after entering the country through Yangyang International Airport.
It’s unlikely the disappearances have some mysterious, sinister, or supernatural cause. Charter flights like these are often a gateway for Thais and other nationalities to slip into the country to stay and work illegally.
These incidents have raised concerns about the management of international tourists in South Korea. The country operates the K-ETA system, which allows people from 112 visa-waiver countries, including Thailand, to obtain electronic travel authority online before travelling. K-ETA was introduced by South Korea because the country has a problem with illegal migrant workers.
The number of Thais working legally in South Korea is around 18,000. But the number of Thais illegally working in the country is thought to be as high as 140,000. Last year, 10,377 Thai people found working illegally in South Korea were deported.
At present, all foreigners are required to obtain a K-ETA or a visa to gain entry into South Korea. Non-Korean nationals going to South Korea for tourism, business meetings, discussions, conferences, short-term study with a stay below 90 days, and family visits should apply for K-ETA online at least one week before arrival.
If the purpose of your visit is not covered under the K-ETA, or your nationality is not eligible for a K-ETA, you must apply for the appropriate visa.
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