The whereabouts of 55 out of 280 Thai tourists who entered South Korea earlier this week through the airport on the southern island of Jeju are unknown, immigration officials said Sunday.
Out of 697 Thai nationals who arrived at the Jeju International Airport from Bangkok through a direct Jeju Airlines flight between Tuesday and Friday, 417 were denied entry and were flown home, according to the Jeju Immigration Service.
Of the other 280 people who have entered the country for a three-day tourism program, 55 have broken away from their tour groups and disappeared, officials said.
The immigration office said it was trying to figure out where they went.
Officials said that many of the Thai tourists chose to enter South Korea through Jeju as they have a record of being denied entry through other airports, including the country’s main gateway, Incheon International Airport.
Out of 697 tourists, 367 of them, or 52.7 percent, previously were denied entry under the Korea electronic travel authorization (K-ETA), authorities said. They appear to have chosen Jeju as they can enter without the K-ETA process.
South Korea currently operates the K-ETA under which citizens from 112 visa-waiver countries, including Thailand, are to obtain the ETA online before traveling.
However, the Seoul government has exempted foreign arrivals through the Jeju International Airport from the K-ETA, taking into consideration that Jeju is a tourist spot.
The Ministry of Justice earlier said it is pushing to adopt the K-ETA system on the island of Jeju as well.