By many measures, South Korea is swiftly restoring life as usual after suffering a heavy COVID-19 caseload in March. The region has logged an average of about 10 new COVID-19 cases per day since mid-April, it enjoys an ample supply of facial masks and sanitizer, and the Korean government on May 6 lifted social distancing orders and now encourages routine distancing to keep the coronavirus at bay.
South Korea is also making progress on the business front as regions including China, Vietnam, Poland, Hungary and Kuwait have started to crack open the doors for travel by Korean businesspeople. As of mid-May, more than 5,500 Korean workers had received permits to travel to the five nations.
For several months, South Korea was subjected to international travel bans to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Then, as its COVID-19 case count dropped, other nations started to loosen their bans on business visits to South Korea. In mid-May, the Korean government won work-related travel privileges to Vietnam for 186 Samsung Display engineers, while some LG engineers were also granted the travel permits.
Other steps forward for the Korean microelectronics supply chain include the following:
- About 1,150 workers from Samsung, LG group and affiliates subject to a 14-day quarantine were granted entry to Vietnam
- 340 employees from 143 small and midsize Korean companies traveled to Vietnam under a 14-days quarantine
- 252 LG Group workers won fast-track entry to Nanjing, China
- 215 Samsung Display, Samsung SDI and Samsung Electro-Mechanics engineers were permitted entry to Tianjin, China under the region’s fast-track program
- 170 LG Display workers with fast-track privileges flew to Guangzhou, China
- 300 Samsung Electronics workers arrived in Xian, China via fast track
Shanghai, Tianjin, and Shandong are among 10 provinces in China that have implemented the fast-track entry program. South Korea businesspeople are required to follow a number of protocols to help ensure the safety of China’s citizens such as:
- Submitting to temperature checks at least 14 days before departure and COVID-19 tests within 24 hours of leaving South Korea
- Showing health certificates that they have tested negative for COVID-19
- Undergoing COVID-19 testing once they arrive in China. Workers testing negative for the virus can start work within three days.
Other regions are also weighing a loosening of travel restrictions to South Korea. For example, the Japan government is considering issuing business travel permits to 10 countries including Korea, China, and the United States.
The start to re-opening international borders to business travel is a promising step toward restoring the global collaboration and connection at the heart of the microelectronics industry.
Jaegwan Shim is a marketing specialist at SEMI Korea.