November 19, 2014 12:31
Jeju Island plans to lift restrictions on Chinese tourists driving rental cars on the scenic resort in an effort to boost visitor numbers, but critics say that would be irresponsible and endanger traffic safety.
The Jeju provincial government said Tuesday that a special bill that will allow short-term Chinese visitors to drive on the resort island was given the green light in a Cabinet meeting.
Not everyone can simply drive a car here. Korea has agreements with the U.S., Japan and other countries allowing their citizens to drive rental cars, but no such pact has been signed with China, where road safety is not of the highest standard, so Chinese tourists on a 90-day visa are not allowed to drive here.
Cho Sang-bum, a Jeju government official, said, "Rental car companies must sign up for comprehensive insurance, and Chinese tourists who drive will be required to pay a deposit to be returned two months after their departure in case they break any traffic laws."
But critics point out that car accidents on Jeju Island involving rental cars are on the increase, rising from 233 with six dead and 449 injured in 2010 to 394 with 14 dead and 638 injured in 2013.
An official at the Jeju branch of the Korea Road Traffic Authority said, "China is notorious for traffic accidents. There's one every four minutes, and an average of 160 people get killed driving every day."
The official warned the Jeju provincial government not to rush the decision. "We also need to set up more sign posts in foreign languages, safety facilities and other infrastructure before allowing Chinese visitors to drive," he said.
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