China has suspended issuing short-stay visas to South Koreans, Beijing’s embassy in Seoul said Tuesday, in response to health restrictions Seoul has imposed on Chinese travelers that it considers “discriminatory.”
“Embassies and consulates in Korea will suspend issuing short-stay visas to Korean citizens,” the embassy said, noting that these measures “will be adjusted based on Seoul’s lifting of discriminatory entry restrictions at home.” “Respect for China.”
In December, Seoul imposed a series of health restrictions on travelers from mainland China, including visa restrictions, flight restrictions and mandatory drug test submissions, citing a 19 rise in China’s COVID-19 cases.
Travelers from China are now required to present a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours of boarding in South Korea or a negative antigen test taken within 24 hours of departure.
According to official figures, 2,224 Chinese nationals on short-stay visas have landed in South Korea since Jan. 2, and 17.5 percent of them tested positive upon arrival.
Seoul also restricted the issuance of short-stay visas to Chinese nationals until the end of January, except for government officials, diplomats and those with vital humanitarian and business purposes.
Seoul has also reduced the number of flights from China, which are now also only allowed to land at Incheon International Airport, about fifty kilometers west of Seoul.
Jeju Island in the south of the country, which has its own international airport and separate visa entry regime, was a popular tourist destination for Chinese nationals before the pandemic.
Seoul “will inevitably strengthen some anti-epidemic measures to prevent the spread of the virus in our country due to the worsening COVID-19 situation in China,” South Korean Premier Han Duck-soo said in announcing the measures.
The number of Chinese tourists in the country rose from 6.02 million in 2019 to 200,000 from January to November in 2022, accounting for just 7.5 percent of foreign tourists, South Korea’s culture ministry told AFP.