South Korea Negotiates Travel Bubbles, Plans Mobile Travel Passes

Officials say talks are underway but no word yet on which countries the government is working with

The South Korean government is negotiating travel bubble agreements with other countries and says plans are in the works to launch a mobile travel pass.

Establishing travel bubbles could mean two-way quarantine-free movement for those with a negative COVID-19 test results. Government officials say talks are underway but the Transport Ministry declined to say which countries they are in negotiation with.

“The country will push ahead with the signing of travel bubble agreements for people to travel without restriction on the basis of the coronavirus situation,” said South Korea’s finance minister Hong Nam-ki, according to reports in the Korean Herald.

However, the country has announced plans to introduce a pilot program for a digital travel pass, allowing COVID-19 test results to be saved and displayed from a mobile app.

South Korea joins a number of other countries in deploying some kind of digital health pass. Earlier this week, China announced its own international vaccine health passport

and the European Union is set to propose a similar solution next week.

At a recent ASEAN Economic Ministers meeting, leaders of the ten member states floated the idea of creating a common vaccine certificate to facilitate travel. No timetable for such a solution was suggested, but could be finalized in the near future.

The hope is to have steps in place to revive the lagging travel industry by summer. Recent surveys of travelers have shown that confidence in the return to air travel is boosted by the vaccine rollout, with the vast majority saying they will be more likely to travel once they have received their COVID-19 inoculations.

South Korea has kicked off a mass vaccination campaign and 60 to 70 percent of the population is expected to have the vaccine by September. It is unclear how vaccinated individuals will be affected either by the pass or the travel bubble.