South Korea has once again tightened its COVID-19 testing regime for short-term visitors, mandating that travellers must now have their on-arrival PCR test samples taken at the airport upon landing, rather than having the additional flexibility of doing so at an approved clinic by the end of the following day.
This new edict applies for arrivals from 10th August 2022 until at least 9th September 2022, and is subject to further extension, as the country’s latest COVID-19 wave shows no signs of abating.
Thankfully, post-test isolation is still not required, despite international confusion over this rule.
However, it does remain a recommendation that you remain in your residence or accommodation until you receive a negative result from the on-arrival test.
New on-arrival test process
From 10th August 2022 until at least 9th September 2022, all short-term visitors (tourists) must complete their on-arrival PCR test at the airport when touching down in Seoul (Incheon Airport), Busan (Gimhae Airport) or Jeju Airport.
All three of these cities now feature direct flights from Singapore.
Citizens and residents of South Korea are still permitted to take their on-arrival tests at an approved clinic by 11.59pm the day after their flight’s arrival date, but this option is temporarily not available to visitors.
Here are the booking links for the on-arrival test at the various airport locations.
South Korea Airport
On-arrival test booking
|Seoul Incheon Airport
|Busan Gimhae Airport
The cost of on-arrival PCR testing in South Korea is currently:
- At Seoul Incheon: KRW 80,000 (around S$84)
- At Busan or Jeju: KRW65,000 (around S$68)
On-arrival testing in South Korea applies regardless of age or nationality.
Your on-arrival test result should also be registered at the Q-code website, which is also used for recodring pre-departure test information.
Do note that taking the a COVID-19 PCR test on arrival in South Korea is mandatory. If you fail to take the test, you could face to up to one year of imprisonment or a fine of up to KRW10 million (S$10,500).
Isolation is not mandatory
When South Korea shortened its on-arrival test requirement from three days to one day in late July, there was some confusion over whether it was a requirement to self-isolate while awaiting a negative result, with some sites stating a recommendation, and others implying it was mandatory.
Things haven’t got much clearer for travellers!
The Singapore Embassy to South Korea states isolation is recommended, as does the Australian Government, while Singapore Airlines, the Korea Tourism Organization and the UK Government all maintain that it’s a must.
What a mess!
It’s taken some time for us to get an official response from the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), but we can confirm that self-isolation is still only recommended.
This has also been confirmed by reader reports for those who have travelled to South Korea in the last couple of weeks.
Here’s what we know from MOFA’s response to us:
- After the on-arrival test, you are recommended to proceed directly to your residence or accommodation and self-isolate until a negative result is received.
- You can proceed to your accommodation by public transport, including on trains, while waiting for the result.
- You can proceed to your accommodation in another city in South Korea by domestic flight, while waiting for the result.
What if the on-arrival test is positive?
It’s very important to remember that if your on-arrival COVID-19 PCR test result is positive, a mandatory seven-day quarantine period is required in South Korea.
Korean nationals and Alien Registration Card (ARC) holders may self-quarantine at home, however short-term visitors must serve the quarantine at an allocated facility.
Non-residents who have recovered from COVID-19 but still test positive on arrival are also required to isolate for seven days, regardless of medical documentation of a prior COVID-19 diagnosis.
We therefore strongly recommend that if you have recently recovered from COVID-19, you opt for a PCR pre-departure test in Singapore or your origin country, to avoid the likelihood of testing positive on arrival and having to serve forced quarantine.
Pre-departure testing remains
South Korea is one of the few countries popular with Singapore residents that still imposes a pre-departure testing requirement (though vaccination is no longer mandatory).
Since May 2022, those arriving in South Korea from overseas must take one of the following pre-departure tests:
- a PCR test within 2 days of departure; or
- an ART test (clinic only) within 1 day of departure.
For example, if your flight from Singapore to Seoul departs at 11.15pm (23:15) on Wednesday 17th August 2022, you must take your pre-departure test as follows:
- PCR: On or after 0.00am on Monday 15th August 2022
- ART: On or after 0.00am on Tuesday 16th August 2022
The timing applies prior to departure at the first embarkation point in a continuous journey to South Korea (i.e. where you do not leave the airport premises at any transit points).
Don’t forget to check our comprehensive and continually updated list of the cheapest pre-departure PCR and ART tests in Singapore when planning your trip to South Korea.
For most of our readers that means the best option will be to have an ART test within 1 day of the departure time of your non-stop flight from Singapore.
Children under the age of six (by date of birth on the entry date to South Korea) are exempt from pre-departure testing, provided they are accompanied by adults who submit valid negative PDT results.
Korean nationals and long-term visa holders who have recovered from COVID-19 within 10 to 40 days of their departure date are also exempt from pre-departure testing, provided they have a recovery memo, however this does not apply to tourists and visitors.
Tele-ARTs not allowed
While you can now take a supervised pre-departure self-swab ART test by video call in Singapore, the requirements for those taking an antigen test to travel to South Korea state that it must be “taken at a hospital or clinic”.
The requirements go on to be even more explicit about remote supervised tests.
This is an unfortunate stance for those using the antigen method for pre-departure testing, since a trip to a clinic will have to be made before departure.
What about transits?
If you’re transiting in South Korea on a connecting itinerary without clearing immigration (i.e. with onward boarding pass and any luggage checked through to your final destination), you are exempt from the country’s pre-departure and on-arrival testing requirements.
Only the requirements of your final destination (if any) will apply. Transit time must not exceed 24 hours.
Singapore – South Korea trip process
Here’s the latest process for those travelling from Singapore (and other countries) quarantine-free to South Korea, for arrivals from 10th August 2022 (latest changes highlighted).
Eligibility & Process
Singapore South Korea
- Apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation at least 24 hours in advance*
- Take a pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test up to 2 days before departure, or a clinic-based ART test up to 1 day before departure
- Obtain a Q-code, which must be presented upon arrival
- Take a COVID-19 PCR test on arrival at the airport in Seoul, Busan or Jeju, with a recommendation to self-isolate until a negative result is received
- Upload your on-arrival test result via the Q-code website
* Not applicable for South Korean citizens or permanent residents
Singapore – South Korea trip testing costs
Here’s how round-trip testing costs from Singapore to South Korea and back currently look.
Singapore South Korea
|SG pre-departure (clinic ART)||From S$18|
|S. Korea arrival (airport PCR)||~S$84
Travellers can now expect to part with just over S$100 on a round-trip to South Korea, a far cry from the S$500+ per person we saw when the VTL with Singapore was first established and multiple PCR tests were the norm.
Currently there are only two COVID-19 tests required on a round-trip from Singapore to South Korea and back, which will hopefully reduce further soon.
Unfortunately quarantine-free travel to South Korea is slowly becoming more arduous, having been progressively simplified in the first half of 2022, with this latest requirement for tourists to take their on-arrival PCR test at the airport when flying into Seoul, Busan or Jeju.
Travellers continue to be recommended to self-isolate until a negative on-arrival test result is received, though this is not mandatory, despite significant confusion on the topic.
You can also take public transport and/or domestic flights to your final destination, even before your PCR results come through.
In the worst case, a mandatory seven-day quarantine at a designated facility is still imposed for visitors who test positive.
(Cover Photo: YNA)