With 2022 officially in the books and the New Year well underway, it’s only natural to wonder what kinds of changes we will see ahead. This year, Korea will gradually introduce various changes—some subtle, and some not—to its policy, economy and society that will affect all those living and doing business here. Let’s take a look at what will be different for Korea in 2023.
Lifting of Mandatory Registration Policy for Foreign Investors
On January 24, S. Korea's financial regulator unveiled plans to abolish the existing mandatory registration policy for foreigners investing in local stocks within this year, in line with efforts to meet global standards. Currently, foreigners are required to file personal information with local financial authorities before purchasing listed Korean stocks. The policy, which does not exist in other major markets, including the United States, Japan and Germany, has been named as one of the excessive regulations for foreigners seeking investment opportunities in Korea. The Financial Services Commission (FSC) added the country will still be able to monitor the local financial market without the registration system and that the revision will now allow private foreign investors to invest in local stocks just with their passport number. In a statement, the FSC said, "(Such changes) will improve the investment environment of the Korean market by meeting global standards and build ground (for the country) to attract more foreign investment by improving their convenience."
Koreans to Get Younger
Traditionally, Koreans have counted the age of a newborn baby as one-year-old, and everyone gets a year older on New Year’s Day, regardless of the date of birth. This system, different from the universal age counting method, adds one to two years onto everyone’s age. To avoid unnecessary confusion in determining how old a person is, the government has decided to put an end to Korea’s unique age system. Starting from June 2023, the universal age counting system will officially be applied to all Koreans.
Faster Residency System and New Visas
Starting this year, Korea will offer a faster residency system for foreigners in science and technology. Foreign professionals in science and tech sectors educated in Korea will be able to acquire permanent residency and citizenship swiftly under a new fast track system. The Ministry of Justice will simplify procedures for foreigners acquiring residency, permanent residency and citizenship by naturalization after they receive master’s and doctorate degrees from six specialized institutions, including Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST), Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science & Technology (DGIST), and Gwangju Institute of Science & Technology (GIST). Foreign professionals will no longer need to meet the requirement of engaging in professional service for three or more years to acquire Korean residency. They will be given a five-year-stay qualification if they are recommended by university heads. The new system will shorten the period for foreigners to acquire permanent residency and citizenship by naturalization by up to three years, which typically takes six years or longer. The ministry will also offer new F-5-16S permanent resident visas to talented foreign professionals in the science and technology fields who receive certain level of points in academic, research and career performance. Outstanding individuals in these sectors will be offered to apply for a special naturalization process. The government is also working on two new types of visas to introduce in 2023. The “K-culture training” visa is for young foreign nationals who want to learn about Korea’s entertainment business or creating content. The "workcation" visa is designed for digital nomads who want to stay in Korea for up to two years while keeping their jobs at home and working remotely.
Expansion of Online Language Test
Obtaining a high score on the state-run Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) is one of the most definite ways to certify one’s proficiency in the Korean language, also serving as a shortcut to getting permanent residency or citizenship in the country. In response to the increasing number of TOPIK applications, the government will hold its first online-based reading, listening and writing test in November, while expanding its current internet-based speaking test to twice a year.
Public Transportation Fare Hike
The standard taxi fare in the capital city of Seoul has risen from KRW 3,800 (USD 3.10) to KRW 4,800 starting February. The taxi fare increase has been introduced to ease the shortage of cabs on the road. Seoul Metropolitan Government is also considering increasing both subway and bus fares by 300 Korean won. In 2022, the adult fare in Seoul was KRW 1,250 for the subway, and KRW 1,200 for the bus.
New Food Storage Guidelines
After a whopping 38 years in practice, the current “sell-by” date method has been changed to the “use-by” date method starting in January. A use-by date, indicating when a food item will be at its best quality, is set 20 percent longer than the sell-by date. The new guideline has been introduced in response to environmental concerns, as consumers tend to toss products once they pass the sell-by date, despite the fact that most products are still considered by experts to be safe for consumption. The use-by date, expected to help reduce food waste, is to be printed on all foods with the exception of milk.
Subsidies for Newborn Babies
Starting on January 1, parents with infants who are younger than 12 months will receive a monthly subsidy of KRW 700,000 (USD 555), and parents with infants younger than 24 months will receive KRW 350,000 (USD 277). The new childcare subsidy has been implemented as part of the Korean government’s efforts to curb the country's falling birthrate.
Two More “Alternative” Holidays to be Added
Starting in 2023, the government will add two religious holidays—Christmas and Buddha’s Birthday—to the list of national holidays that are given an alternative holiday (designated on a weekday) when the holidays fall on the weekend. Currently, only Seollal (Lunar New Year), Chuseok, March 1 Independence Movement Day, National Liberation Day, National Foundation Day and Hangeul Day are on the list.
Better Treatment of Asylum-Seekers
Korea’s Ministry of Justice has decided to improve legal and administrative systems at government detention facilities for foreign nationals. Starting March 6, each facility will be monitored by human rights officials, and tools to control defiant behavior will be codified in more detailed and specific ways.
By Grace Park Executive Consultant Investment Public Relations Team / Invest Korea Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA)
Source: Compilation and excerpts from www.investkorea.org, Yonhap News Agency, Pulse by Maeil Business News Korea, Korea Economic Daily Global Edition
*This article is extracted from Invest KOREA information center, 2023.