Since the 31st of March 2020, the Korean government has implemented a quarantine policy for all incoming travelers in the country to limit the influx and spread of COVID-19.
Students, employees or traveler-workers subject to quarantine can therefore still travel to South Korea despite the pandemic.
What is quarantine in South Korea?
All inbound travelers are required to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine after arriving in South Korea. The traveler is required to stay alone in an isolated place and to refrain from outdoor activities until 12:00 pm of the 14th day after arrival in the country.
Suppose one arrives on Jan. 1, then the quarantine measure is lifted on Jan. 15 at 12:00 pm.
Can I quarantine in a government facility or can I quarantine at my own place of residence in South Korea?
Let’s go over some of the entry requirements for foreign travelers.
A distinction is made between foreigners with short stay status and long stay status. Short-stay foreigners (B1, B2, C1, C3, and C4 visa holders) are required to spend their quarantine time in quarantine facilities offered by the central or local governments, with each individual paying KRW 1.4 million for the period of 14 days or KRW 100,000 per day for their stay and related services.
Foreigners with long-stay status are allowed or even required to spend their quarantine at their own place of residence.
If one shows symptoms of COVID-19 upon arrival to Incheon International Airport, then he or she will be required to take a COVID-19 test. If positive, one will be transferred to a hospital or residential treatment center. If negative, one will be transferred to a government quarantine facility offered by the central or local governments.
If there are no symptoms upon arrival at Incheon International Airport, short-term foreigners immediately will be transferred to government-designated quarantine facilities in the case of visitors without a residence visa. Long-term foreigners are allowed to quarantine at their place of residence.
There are quarantine exemptions available for foreigners living overseas who have a valid reason approved by their local Korean consulate.
What is the arrival procedure at Incheon International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in South Korea?
The arrival procedure for incoming travelers at Incheon International Airport follows six steps.
Step 1: The traveler’s body temperature is checked, with only a body temperature below 37.3 degrees Celsius accepted, and the incoming traveler submits a health questionnaire.
Step 2: The traveler submits his or her travel record consisting of his or her address and phone number. If one is staying in Korea as a traveler with long-term status, the officer will call the contact person of the self-quarantine address to verify the place of residence.
Step 3: If one is staying in Korea as a traveler with long-term status, the officer will also install a self-quarantine safety protection app on the traveler’s smartphone.
Step 4: The traveler will receive a quarantine certificate.
Step 5: The traveler walks through immigration clearance and picks up his or her luggage.
Step 6: The traveler receives a health screening certificate.
The self-quarantine safety protection app is a governmental app on the traveler’s smartphone mandatory during the quarantine period through which a public health officer can continuously monitor the traveler’s location and which raises an alarm if the smartphone does not detect movement for a long period of time.
Is it mandatory for me to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival in South Korea?
The answer is simple: yes!
All incoming travelers to Korea must have themselves tested three times for COVID-19 to be exact. Once up to 72 hours before departure, once upon arrival, on the same day or the day after depending on the time of arrival, and once just before leaving the quarantine residence, namely on the thirteenth day of the quarantine period.
A PCR test at one of these public health centers is free of charge. Public health centers are open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm on weekdays and from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm on weekends. The testing procedure at these centers is organized and smooth. The traveler receives a self-quarantine kit consisting of a thermometer, mouth masks, cleansing gel, medical waste bags and disinfectant.
The day after the test has beenconducted, the result of the test is sent to the traveler via a text message.
How do I get from Incheon International Airport to one of the health testing centers or my self-quarantine accommodation in South Korea?
The day and time of arrival at Incheon International Airport, determines the location to where and the transportation options by which the incoming traveler can relocate himself.
If the public health center is open on arrival, the incoming traveler can travel there by special transportation bus, quarantine bus or a private vehicle driven by a family member or friend.
The special transportation bus operates daily between 7:30 am and 8:00 pm. The bus departs four times daily to a local public health center in one of the four selected jurisdictions. The traveler can travel from this location to his or her self-quarantine accommodation via a quarantine cab or by foot. A ticket, including the quarantine cab, costs KRW 16,000.
The quarantine cab or call van operates daily 24 hours a day. The price for a ride by cab or call-van varies depending on the distance between Incheon International airport and the public health centers or self-quarantine accommodation. The fare fluctuates for a cab between KRW 65,000 and KRW 90,000 and for a call-van between KRW 61,600 and KRW 94,600.
If the public health center is closed upon arrival, then one can travel from the self-quarantine accommodation the next day using a self-quarantine cab.
The quarantine cab operates every Monday through Friday between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm and on Saturday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. Reservations must be made at least one hour in advance and a contact number is required.
How do I survive for two weeks in self-quarantine in South Korea?
The thought of being locked up in the same room in an unknown country for fourteen days can sound distressing. You may have a roof over your head, but what about all the other necessities of life such as food and household goods. “걱정하지 마세요!” (or “Geogjeonghaji masaeyo!”, meaning “No worries!”, a common Korean expression).
Travelers can always contact a public health officer with their questions through the self-quarantine safety protection app, through which they are also required to report their body temperature twice a day with a thermometer that they received during their first visit at one of the public health centers.
The E-commerce and food-delivery sector in Korea is known for its fast and reliable service. Seoul Life and Enkor are two English platforms where foreigners can purchase food and household items in a user-friendly manner.
Shuttle is an English food delivery service through which one can order a variety of delicious meals from the hottest restaurants in Seoul.
Finally, travelers are required to keep their household waste in a medical waste bag, which they receive when they take their first PCR test at one of the public health centers. The medical waste bag must be disinfected both inside and out. The waste will be collected by a public health officer on the last day of quarantine, or upon request during the quarantine period.
The quarantine period is overall ideal for taking a moment to reflect and distance yourself from the outside world. You can use this time by re-watching your favorite Netflix series, reading a brand new book or immersing yourself in the Korean language!
Instagram: @seoulbreather – https://www.instagram.com/seoulbreather/
Linked-In: Hanne Van Meer – https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannevanmeer/
Central Disease Control Headquarters & Central Disaster Management Headquarters. (2020). Guidelines on the Management and Operation of Temporary Living & Testing Facilities for Inbound Travelers.
I Seoul U, Global Education & Services, KCT & Enkor. (n.d.). Quarantine Guidelines for International Students.