Travellers arriving from China are accompanied by health workers to Incheon International Airport’s COVID-19 testing center. Photo Credit: AFP
China has stopped issuing short-term visas for South Koreans due to Seoul’s travel restrictions on Chinese travelers over COVID concerns. Beijing’s Embassy stated on January 10, 2023.
The embassy in Seoul stated that China’s embassies and consulates will suspend the issuance short-term visas to Korean citizens. It also said that the measures would be adjusted in accordance with South Korea’s lifting of discriminatory entry restrictions against China.
Seoul imposed restrictions last month on Chinese tourists, including testing requirements, visa restrictions and flight limits due to an increase in COVID-19 infection.
Seoul also has a cap on flights from China. Travellers from Macau, Hong Kong, and the mainland must test negative before they travel and then are tested again upon arrival.
Authorities have instructed that those who test positive must be kept in quarantine for one week.
China does not issue tourist visas at the moment and requires a negative COVID test on all arrivals.
A Chinese national arrived in Seoul and tested positive. He refused to be quarantined and fled, igniting a manhunt that dominated South Korean headlines for two days.
According to local media, the Chinese national was eventually located by police.
Official figures show that 2,224 Chinese nationals with short-term visas arrived in South Korea on January 2. 17.5% of them were positive upon arrival.
South Korea also has halted issuing short-term visas for Chinese nationals. This excludes public officials and diplomats as well as those with critical humanitarian and business reasons.
Other restrictions include a reduction in the number of Chinese flights and the requirement that all South Korean flights land at the main Incheon International Airport.
South Korea’s southernmost Jeju Island has an international airport and separate visa entry system. It was popular among Chinese tourists before the pandemic.
Seoul “inevitably strengthens some anti-epidemic precautions to prevent the spreading of the virus to our country due to China’s worsening Covid-19 condition in China,” Prime Minister Han Ducksoo announced last month.
After Beijing relaxed hardline controls that had torpedoed China’s economy, China’s hospitals were overwhelmed by an influx of cases. This sparked widespread protests.
According to Seoul’s official data, China tourists accounted for 34.4% of all foreign tourists who visited South Korea in 2019 and 2020.
However, the number of Chinese tourists fell significantly last year — from 6.02million in 2019 to 200,000 for Jan to November 2022 — representing only 7.5% of tourists from overseas, South Korea’s culture ministry stated to AFP.