A team of health workers will guide travelers arriving from China to the COVID-19 testing facility at Incheon International Airport. File

China has suspended issuing short-term Visas to South Koreans as a result of Seoul’s imposition travel restrictions for Chinese travellers due to COVID concerns. Beijing’s embassy stated that this was done on January 10, 2023.

“Chinese consulates and embassies in Korea will suspend the issuing of short-term Visas for Korean Citizens,” Seoul’s embassy stated. They also added that the measures would be “adjusted in line with South Korea’s removal of discriminatory entry restrictions to China.”

Seoul imposed several restrictions on China-bound travellers last month. These restrictions included visa restrictions and testing requirements. The restrictions were prompted by an increase in COVID-19 cases.

Seoul has also set a maximum number of flights from China. All travellers from Macau, Hong Kong and the mainland have to pass a negative screening before departing and must be tested again upon their arrival.

Authorities have ordered that all positive test subjects be placed in quarantine for at least one week.

China doesn’t issue any tourist visas, and all visitors must pass a negative COVID screening.

One Chinese national, who arrived in Seoul with a positive test for his country’s HIV, refused to be quarantined. Instead, he fled the scene and triggered a two-day manhunt that was the focus of South Korean media.

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The Chinese national, who was not identified but described as a medical tourism tourist, was finally found by police. He will be interrogated this week for the offense, local media reported.

Official statistics show that since January 2, 2,224 Chinese nationals have arrived in South Korea with short-term visas. 17.5% of these Chinese citizens were positive for HIV upon their arrival.

South Korea has also limited the issuing Chinese short-term visas. However, this excludes diplomats and public officials who have vital humanitarian or business purposes.

Other restrictions include the restriction of China’s flights, and the requirement for all South Korean-bound flights to land at South Korea’s Incheon International Airport.

South Korea’s southernmost Jeju Island is home to an international airport with a separate visa entry process. This island was a popular tourist spot for Chinese before the pandemic.

Seoul will “inevitably strengthen some anti-epidemic actions to prevent spread of the disease in our country, due to the worsening Covid-19 status in China,” Prime Minister Han Ducksoo stated last month when announcing the measures.

After Beijing started to loosen hardline controls, which had torpedoed China’s economy and sparked protests across the country, China has seen an explosion in hospital cases.

According to Seoul’s data, the highest proportion of foreign tourists visiting South Korea for 2019 and 2020 was from China, at 34.4% and 27.2% respectively.

The number of Chinese tourists has dropped dramatically last year, from 6.02million in 2019, to 200,000 from January to November 2022. This is only 7.5% of all overseas tourists, South Korea’s Culture Ministry told AFP.

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