Despite a record number of COVID-19 infections, South Korea is pushing ahead with plans to reopen the country to travelers, ending the quarantine requirement for people who have been vaccinated against the virus.

South Korea's cultural output has crossed borders in recent years through K-Pop groups like BTS, Blackpink and SuperM; the history-making TV show Squid Game (which broke Netflix's viewing records in 2021); and the multi-Oscar winning movie Parasite.

But since the beginning of the pandemic its borders have essentially been closed to tourists, with strict entry rules that have only recently started to ease. In February, the government reduced the quarantine period from 10 to seven days and starting April 1, quarantine will be scraped entirely for vaccinated arrivals.

Guests are seen during the Seoul Fashion Week 2020
South Korea is easing social distancing rules and has dropped its vaccine pass requirement for public venues © Jean Chung/Getty Images

When will South Korea open borders for tourists in 2022?

Starting April 1, international tourists will be able to visit South Korea without quarantine — provided they are vaccinated against COVID-19. This applies to visitors from most countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and more. The only exceptions are visitors from Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, and Myanmar, who will continue to be required to quarantine for seven days.

South Korea's new entry rules

If you plan to visit South Korea this year, you will be required to have received a booster shot to bypass quarantine if more than 180 days have passed since your last recommended dose of a primary vaccine schedule. That is 180 days after your second shot or 180 days after the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

You'll also be required to apply for a QR code which will then be scanned at immigration, according to the tourism board. You can get that through South Korea's Q-Code system by entering information such as your passport number, departure country, airline, phone number and vaccine records.

What restrictions are in place in South Korea?

South Korea was once one of the world's pandemic success stories, taking some of the toughest approaches against the virus than any other country. But now South Korea is battling record numbers of new cases, hospitaizations and deaths.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said the highly infectious Omicron variant was driving the record wave of infections. According to the New York Times, the country recorded its highest number of daily infections since the pandemic began on March 17. 

Keen to fend off the latest wave, the government continues to require people to wear facemasks in indoor and outdoor public places and on public transport. But other restrictions have been suspended such as the need to present proof of vaccination to enter places like restaurants, cinemas and theaters.

The government has also relaxed social distancing measures and is set to ease curfew limits in the coming weeks. Currently, venues like restaurants, cinemas, karaoke rooms and bathhouses must close at 11 pm under the current guidelines.

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