Korea lifts restrictions, MICE industry returns to normal operations

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On April 18th South Korea lifted social distancing restrictions that have limited gatherings and operation hours for most of the pandemic. With the announcement, Korea’s meetings industry effectively returns to normal operations, and events of all sizes are once again able to resume as normal with full attendee capacity.

Key changes to the announcement include the following:

  • All restrictions related to limiting of operation hours, social distancing, policies against events/protests, religious gatherings, and more have all been lifted.
  • The ban on consumption of food and beverage at indoor events has been lifted, but will go into effect on April 25th. 

Regarding the recent announcement, Director of Coex’s Venue Marketing Team Catarina Jun stated, “The last two years of restrictions have been challenging for Coex, as our team rode wave after wave of shifting social distancing guidelines while simultaneously introducing hybrid event functionality and digital events services for our meeting planner clients.” She added, “So we are both relieved to return to normal business, and also overwhelmed fielding calls left and right for all the pent-up demand that is returning, seemingly overnight.” 

Prior to the change, events of all types were heavily affected, and the meetings industry in Korea, as with elsewhere around the world, faced many cancellations and postponements. Limits were placed on exhibitions and conferences based on maximum occupancy of the space or total number of participants, greatly reducing the number of people that could attend formerly packed and sold-out events. 

The ban on consumption of food and beverage and indoor events also impacted the operations of many popular exhibitions and trade shows, especially ones related to the food and beverage industry.

Organizers and attendees of events in Korea should take note that mask mandates are still in place for most indoor and outdoor spaces, although this policy is set to be reviewed in two weeks time. Also, for international arrivals, only vaccinated persons with a negative PCR test are eligible for skipping mandatory quarantine for the time being.

As the last of restrictions are lifted and the world tourism industry adapts to a new normal, Korea’s meetings industry looks to return to the global prominence and demand it enjoyed right before the pandemic. In 2019 the Union of International Associations ranked Seoul 3rd in the world for the number of international meetings hosted.