South Korea to accept pre-departure ARTs; simplify on-arrival testing

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From 23 May, ARTs will be accepted for pre-departure testing, and from June, travellers may take their on-arrival PCR test within 3 days.

Travel to South Korea has long been hamstrung by the need to do multiple costly PCR tests. When the country first reopened, travellers had to take up to three of these: before departure, on arrival, and on Day 6/7.

Thankfully, it looks like PCR tests may be on the way out, at least for the most part. Back in March, South Korea replaced the Day 6/7 PCR test with a self-administered ART, and from 23 May 2022, travellers can present an ART result (but only in-clinic; tele-supervised tests are not accepted) to satisfy the pre-departure test requirement. 

From June, the window for on-arrival PCR testing will also be expanded to within three days of arrival, versus day of arrival currently. 

South Korea to accept pre-departure ARTs

South Korea will accept pre-departure ARTs from 23 May

Travellers to South Korea are currently required to take a pre-departure PCR test within two calendar days of departure. For example, if your flight departs at 10 p.m on 15 May, you can take your test anytime from 13 May onwards. 

From 23 May 2022, ARTs will also be accepted for pre-departure testing, as per a report by Yonhap News Agency. The exact timeframe for taking the ART not been specified, but I would expect it to be within one calendar day or 24 hours of departure.

Starting May 23, the government will also recognize negative rapid antigen test results for travelers boarding flights to South Korea, on top of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results currently being accepted, the minister said.

-Yonhap News Agency

The Korean embassy in Singapore has since clarified that tele-ARTs are not acceptable; antigen tests must be done in a clinic.

In the article below, I’ve highlighted the cheapest places to take a pre-departure ART or PCR test in Singapore. 

Cheapest pre-departure COVID-19 ART and PCR tests in Singapore

On-arrival testing window widened

Incheon Airport East testing centre

Travellers to South Korea are also currently required to take a PCR test on arrival. This can either be done at the airport, or at a medical institution near their accommodation. 

From June 2022, the window for on-arrival testing will be widened to within three days of arrival. 

From June, international arrivals will also be required to undergo a PCR test within three days of their entry into South Korea. The mandatory test is currently required on the day of arrival now.

-Yonhap News Agency

This is presumably intended to take pressure off the airport testing facility, where queues have been building in recent times as more visitors return. It also implies that travellers intending to stay in South Korea for less than three days (why not?) will only need to take a pre-departure test.

Travel to South Korea

With the latest changes, here’s a summary of the procedure for quarantine-free travel to South Korea. 

🇰🇷 Summary: Travel to South Korea
  • Fully vaccinated with any vaccine in the WHO EUL (exemption for children below age of 6)
    • Booster jab required if 2nd dose was taken >180 days prior to departure
    • Booster jab not required if two doses taken and recovery certificate presented
  • Apply for K-ETA (foreigners only)
  • Take pre-departure PCR test 48h before flight (exemption for children below age of 6) (ART also accepted from 23 May)
  • Register for Q-Code by uploading proof of vaccination and pre-departure test results
  • Take PCR test on day of arrival in South Korea (within 3 days if arriving from June), either at airport or medical institution near accommodation
  • Take any mode of transport to accommodation and isolate until negative result received
  • Take self-administered ART on Day 6 or 7 in South Korea (if stay ≥8 days). Negative results need not be reported
Full Details: Korean Embassy

When South Korea first opened to Singapore, the total cost of testing could easily exceed S$500 per person, thanks to the relatively expensive PCR tests required. 

With the revised testing regime, however, travellers will pay just over S$100 per head. Those making very short trips to South Korea (<3 days) would only have to do a single antigen test. 

⚕️ South Korea Testing Regime*
LocationRemarksPrice
🇸🇬 Singapore48h before departure (PCR)
ART accepted from 23 May
PCR: S$80
ART: S$11
🇰🇷 South Korea
On arrival (PCR)
Within 3 days from June (PCR)
KRW 80,000
🇰🇷 South KoreaDay 6/7 (ART)~S$5
*Children aged below 6 are exempt from all testing requirements

Conclusion

South Korea will be further easing its onerous testing regime, by accepting ARTs as pre-departure tests from 23 May and widening the window for on-arrival testing from June. This will further reduce the cost of travel to South Korea, especially for those travelling with family. 

Hopefully, in due course we’ll see on-arrival PCR tests replaced by antigen testing as well. 

Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Matrix.RX1

assuming one tests on the third day, how does the “proceed to accomodation and isolate until test results received” part work?

Matrix.RX1

thanks for the reply Aaron. I recall the second (day 5/6) test required in Thailand was just that unfortunately: free to roam after the first test result, then back again at your accomodation for the duration of the testing of the second PCR…

Traveler

Hi Aaron, do you know if PCR on arrival can be exempted if one is stopping over in Korea for a few hours but requires immigration clearance?

Miles

Heads up to everyone, the embassy website states that tele-ART/remote supervised ART will not be accepted. Only hospital & clinic ART results within one day of departure.

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