Nearly 4,000 businesspeople and family members of Koreans residing in Vietnam will be allowed to enter the Southeast Asian country starting Wednesday, marking the largest Korean group admitted in a single day since borders were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A total of 3,953 people — 3,016 employees from 1,646 companies and 937 independent entrepreneurs and family members — will be allowed in with special entry permits exempting them from Vietnam’s ongoing border control restrictions, according to the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) on Tuesday.
This is the first time that a special entry, jointly arranged by the business lobby group and government agencies, includes family members who have been separated for months due to global border restrictions designed to curtail the spread of Covid-19.
“The previous visit only covered businesspeople,” said Lee Sung-woo, a team leader at the KCCI, “But this time around, families were included because of their prolonged separation.”
Lee went on to note that the employees come from companies of different sizes ranging from the likes of Samsung and SK to smaller enterprises.
The planned arrangement, which involves a two-week self-quarantine in Vietnam, came after a visit by 340 Koreans back in April.
The Vietnamese government also allowed the entry of 186 Samsung Display employees without the mandatory 14-day quarantine in March after the government and the display maker appealed to the Vietnamese government to let the employees help restore operations of production lines that were shut down because of the pandemic.
Vietnam has suspended visa-free entry for Koreans entering the country since February, alarmed by the fast-paced spread of the coronavirus.
Since March 22, it has blocked the entry of all foreigners to the country with exemptions for diplomats, foreign investors and skilled workers. All Vietnamese carriers have temporarily halted flights to Korea.
The KCCI has worked with the Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, Ministry of Health and Welfare and Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency to organize clearance for the 3,953 Koreans.
As for the selection process, Lee said that the group adopted a first-come, first-serve rule.
“We selected the special visit members in the order that they applied,” Lee said. “And then, we filtered out some candidates seen by the Vietnamese authorities as inappropriate.”
Those who failed to make it to the final list — despite early registration — either have a criminal record or have violated tax laws, Lee explained.
“The special permit will ease worries that Korean businesses might lose an opportunity in the region while promoting bilateral relations between Korea and Vietnam,” said Woo Tae-hee, vice chairman of the KCCI.
BY PARK EUN-JEE [email@example.com] | This story was first published on the Korea Joongang Daily