China has reportedly brought back a ban on group tours to South Korea. That was after having partially lifted the ban for three weeks.
In a report on Thursday, Korea JoongAng Daily – the English language version of South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo – said that China’s tourism authorities had rejected recent applications for group tour visas to South Korea without providing clear explanation. It cited tourism industry sources in Beijing and the Chinese province of Sangdong.
An employee of a tour agency in Beijing told the South Korean newspaper that the ban on Chinese group tours to South Korea would be reinstated on Friday, with at least five companies in Beijing so far already having their visa requests rejected.
Hong Kong-based newspaper South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday that a travel agent in Beijing said that South Korea-bound group tours “remain unavailable”.
The return of a full ban on group tours to South Korea comes after South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited Beijing last week. Several analysts expected that the relationship between the two countries would improve following the visit.
In a regular press conference on Wednesday, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Hua Chunying was asked about the media reports on the reinstatement of the ban on group tours to South Korea.
“I haven’t heard of the information mentioned,” she replied. “The Chinese side holds an open and positive attitude towards the exchanges and cooperation conducted by China and the Republic of Korea in various areas,” Ms Hua added.
China’s ban on South Korea-bound group tours reportedly started in the autumn of 2016 in retaliation for South Korea’s decision to install the U.S.-supplied Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system close to Chinese territory as a counter to North Korean missile tests.
It was reported that the ban was partially lifted at the end of November this year.
Despite a slump in the number of mainland Chinese visitors to South Korea after the ban was initiated, Paradise Co Ltd, an operator of several foreigner-only casino properties in South Korea, still reported a 5.3 percent year-on-year growth in casino sales in the third quarter of 2017. The firm said casino sales were up due to “recovery in Chinese VIP [play] and solid growth from Japanese VIP [play]”.
Another South Korean foreigner-only-casinos operator, Grand Korea Leisure Co Ltd, also said in its third-quarter earnings announcement that the company had recorded a 3.5 percent year-on-year increase in revenue.
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