The government will look into the controversial issue of Thai nationals consistently being deported by South Korean Immigration, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said on Tuesday after a cabinet meeting.
He vowed to discuss the matter with Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Chakkraphong Saengmanee and said this is the first time he has heard of the problem.
The Korea Tourism Organisation (KTO) said it sent reports to its headquarters seeking talks with the Korean Embassy in Thailand and organisations overseeing the Korea Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA).
According to the KTO, 250,000 Thai tourists visited South Korea from Jan 1-Aug 31, equivalent to 70% of the pre-pandemic level.
Over the past week, Thai netizens, including several influencers, posted their negative experiences on X, formerly known as Twitter, about being denied entry to Korea and deported, resulting in the hashtag #BanTravellingtoKorea (in Thai language) trending.
The post that set social media on fire came from a female traveller who claimed she had been to Korea four times but was rejected on her latest attempt despite having a return ticket as well as tour programmes and hotel bookings.
The immigration officer allegedly asked her if she had been to the country enough times already before denying her entry. Her Oct 24 post has received 9.2 million views and 22,000 reposts.
Many speculate that the deportation results from the large number of Thai nationals who enter Korea with a tourist visa but end up working there illegally in the agriculture, accommodation and manufacturing industries.
The growing number of stories shared by deported tourists and those who were taken to the interview room has raised concern about the Korean immigration office endorsing a discriminating policy against Thai nationals.
Even Thai rapper Apisit "Joeyboy" Opasaimlikit posted a comment on his Facebook account on Tuesday stating that those who are not admitted to the country will feel bad because they have already paid for their tickets to visit their dream destination.
Korea should ask Thais to apply for a visa and screen applicants from the start of the process, he said, adding, "Let's find a solution".