Group travel to S.Korea unavailable

By Deng Xiaoci and Zhao Juecheng Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/28 23:38:40

Seoul’s shifting stance on THAAD ‘makes ties difficult’

China's leading travel agencies said on Tuesday that group tours to South Korea still remain unavailable.

South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported on Tuesday that China's National Tourism Administration declared on Tuesday the partial lifting of its ban on group tours to South Korea, citing unnamed sources, as Seoul and Beijing move to repair bilateral relations badly frayed by the deployment of the US missile defense system in South Korea.

The report claimed that China decided to allow offline travel agencies in Beijing and East China's Shandong Province to sell package tours to South Korea, industry sources said.

Tourists from these two regions account for some 30 percent of all Chinese nationals who visited South Korea last year, according to the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO).

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a daily press conference on Tuesday that he was not aware of the situation.

Geng added that China holds a positive and open attitude toward Sino-South Korean cooperation at all levels, and hopes South Korea and China will promote communication and cooperation between the two sides.

Customer service employees at the China International Travel Service Co (CITS) and China Youth Travel Service told the Global Times on Tuesday that no such group tour services are available to South Korea.

No group travel packages to South Korea are found on major online Chinese travel platforms, including Ctrip, and as of press time.

A Beijing-based travel agency on the Alibaba Group's travel platform claimed to provide group tour service from Tianjin to Seoul, the soonest on December 6.

An employee at the agency told the Global Times that "Group tours to South Korea have not been completely opened, so we don't offer group travel visa services. The 'group travel package' they provide relies on individual visa applications."

South Korea's foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha on Monday reiterated that Seoul has just reaffirmed to Beijing its stance on three issues - deploying additional THAAD systems, joining the US-led global missile defense program and developing a security alliance with the US and Japan - what Chinese media widely refers as the "three no's pledge" on the issue. 

A top South Korean diplomat said they were merely a stance "rather than official consent from the two sides."

South Korea's ambivalence on the THAAD issue has again disappointed China, and will likely have a negative impact on already-chilly Sino-South Korean ties, Lü Chao, an expert on Korean studies at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

Beijing's firm opposition to the THAAD deployment has never changed and will not compromise on empty promises, he said, adding that restoring friendly ties will take time, and will become even more difficult unless Seoul stops contradicting itself under whatever pretext or pressure.

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