ASTANA – Kazakhstan’s continued efforts to promote multi-directional foreign policy by introducing a visa-free regime in 2014 with 10 countries which are big investors in its economy were not futile. In response, some of those countries have facilitated their visa procedures and some even went as far as cancelling visa-related constraints to boost the travel exchange.
South Korea was one of the nations, along with Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, which has completely abandoned the visa regime with Kazakhstan. As a result, these countries are taking advantage of numerous economic benefits that the policy envisioned, such as medical tourism for South Korea.
The new visa free regime between Kazakhstan and South Korea was introduced on Nov. 29, 2014, providing for a month-long visa-free mutual travel for citizens of both countries. In his interview with tengrinews.kz, Korean medical tourism businessman Dong-Il Lim noted the number of medical tourists to South Korea is expected to increase fivefold, from 2,890 in 2014 to about 15,000 in 2015. The demand among Kazakh citizens for medical services in South Korea has increased 24 times since 2008, he told the media.
According to statistics of the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the nation’s embassy in South Korea issued 8,334 visas in 2012, 9,150 in 2013 and 6,237 in the first nine months of 2014 before talks on the visa-free regime were announced. These numbers certainly don’t reflect the total inflow of Korean citizens, but only those who applied from Seoul. According to the South Korean Ambassador to Kazakhstan Baik Joohyeon some 40,000 Koreans visited Kazakhstan in 2014.
“Fifteen thousand Kazakh citizens visited South Korea [in 2014] and about 40,000 Koreans visited Kazakhstan,” he stressed.
Numerous international projects like the EXPO 2017 construction sites, Highville, Apple Town and some of Kazakhstan’s renowned five-star international hotels attract Korean businessmen and labourers, while tourists enjoy learning about Kazakh culture and sightseeing.
The visa-free travel between the countries will not be enough to stimulate investment inflow to Kazakhstan, said former Kazakh diplomat Kazbek Beisebayev in his interview with Deutsche Welle. According to Beisebayev, investors will seek other comforting terms for such purposes and a visa is not an obstacle. Nonetheless, the cancellation of visas “will increase the number of visitors to Kazakhstan and will develop tourism,” he noted.
At the 27th Plenary Session of the Foreign Investors Council on June 12, 2014 President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced the upcoming introduction of a visa-free regime with 10 countries which were the biggest investors in the country’s economy: France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Malaysia, South Korea, the UAE, the United Kingdom and the United States. The project, providing for a 15-day visa free entrance to Kazakhstan for citizens of these countries, with no limits on the number of such visits, was given pilot status, with the validity period from July 15, 2014 to July 15, 2015 and the possibility of prolonging at the expiration date.