January 31, 2023

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China suspends visas for Japanese and South Koreans

Chinese embassies on Tuesday (Jan 10) suspended issuing new visas to South Koreans and Japanese nationals. The decision comes in apparent retaliation after both countries recently required travelers from China to undergo Covid-19 screening tests. Seoul’s announcement, posted on the embassy’s WeChat account, said:

“Embassies and consulates in Korea will stop issuing short-term visas to Korean citizens” Add that to these activities “Adjustment based on Seoul’s removal of discriminatory entry restrictions against China.”

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China It has been phasing out its health policy since early December Zero Covid, highly restricted, and quarantine measures lifted for international travelers from January 8. The easing, coupled with a strong wave of Covid-19 contamination in China, has fueled concern from the international community. China’s foreign ministry last week threatened to take countermeasures against countries that announced new virus testing requirements targeting travelers from China.

Because apart from Japan and South Korea, many countries including the US, UK, France, Italy and Spain have also tightened border controls. In December, Seoul imposed a series of health restrictions on travelers from mainland China, including visas and flights, and forced them to submit to drug tests, citing a surge in Covid-19 cases in China.

“Political maneuvers” and “discriminatory practices”

South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin told Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Monday (January 9) that the restrictions had been imposed. “Scientific Basis”. In a separate statement, the ministry said Seoul had “Previously traded with China” About these activities, and that was the information “Shared openly with the international community”.

However, the reasons why South Korea and Japan are being targeted today have not been specifically mentioned at this time, nor has it been mentioned whether the suspension will extend to other countries. The Chinese Embassy in Tokyo has announced that visa issuance has been temporarily suspended. These notifications only apply to new applicants and nothing about current visa holders.

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The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for its part, ruled “regrettable” what “Some countries still insist on discriminatory entry restrictions against China”. Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the country has “vehemently opposed” These restrictions and “has taken reciprocal measures”. And add:

“We again call on the countries concerned to take scientific and appropriate measures based on the facts. These measures should not be used for political maneuvering and should not have discriminatory practices. »

According to the Japanese Press Service Kyoto, a Tokyo-based travel agency said it could not apply for almost any type of Chinese visa after receiving the notice. Bookings for visa procedures were not available on the China Visa Application Service Center website on Tuesday.

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The Chinese represent only 7.5% of foreign tourists in South Korea

Seoul has reduced the number of flights from the country, which are now limited to Incheon International Airport, located fifty kilometers west of Seoul.

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Passengers arriving from China, Hong Kong and Macau must provide a negative test for Covid-19 before boarding a flight to South Korea. Chinese visitors are also tested upon arrival and must be quarantined for a week if they test positive, officials said. Only government officials, diplomats and certain important humanitarian and business trips are eligible for short-term visas in South Korea until the end of January.

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According to official statistics, 2,224 Chinese nationals have arrived in South Korea with short-term visas since January 2, and 17.5 percent of them tested positive upon arrival. One of the Chinese nationals who had SARS-CoV-2 upon arrival in Seoul refused to submit to quarantine and fled, sparking a two-day manhunt that made headlines. South Korean newspapers. The identity was not released, but the man, described as a medical tourist, was eventually located and will be questioned this week, local media reported.

The number of Chinese tourists in South Korea fell from 6.02 million in 2019 to 200,000 from January to November 2022, representing only 7.5% of foreign tourists, the ministry of South Korean culture told Agence France-Presse. In 2019 and 2020, according to official data from Seoul, tourists from China accounted for 34.4 percent and 27.2 percent of foreign tourists visiting South Korea, respectively.

The world with AFP