After Jeju slaying, some Koreans call for Chinese visa policy to be tightened

By Zhao Yusha Source:Global Times Published: 2016/9/21 19:38:40

Chinese tourists visit in Seongeup Folk Village in Jeju, South Korea on August 26. Dae Jang Geum, a well-known Korean TV show was filmed in the village. Photo: CFP

Some South Koreans are demanding that visa rules be tightened for Chinese visitors to its resort island of Jeju, following the death of a 61-year-old Korean woman who died of her wounds after being attacked by a 50-year-old Chinese tourist surnamed Chen on Saturday.

Chen arrived in Jeju on September 13, where Chinese tourists can stay for maximum of 30 days without a visa, and stabbed the woman in a chapel just because the woman resembled his ex-wife who left him for another man, the Seoul-based Korea Times reported.

Chen is currently in police custody.

Liu Zhifei, China's vice consul general to Jeju, met Won Hee-ryong, governor of Jeju, on Monday and expressed his regret over the killing, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported on Monday.

Tourism organizations in Jeju held urgent meetings on Monday, a South Korean journalist who requested anonymity told the Global Times.

'Chinese phobia'

The crime has triggered public rage toward China in South Korea.

"It is quite an issue in South Korea, and many people are showing strong hatred towards some Chinese nationals. And the Korean government is worrying about the spread of xenophobia and 'Chinese phobia,'" Tiffany Chung, a South Korean citizen, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

More than 11,000 South Koreans have signed an online petition calling for the government to withdraw its visa-free policy for Chinese tourists, according to the Korea Times.

The relationship between China and South Korea has soured after the latter decided to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile defense system in the face of opposition from Beijing and Moscow, as well as the intense competition of Chinese and South Korean products in the global market, so many South Koreans see the Jeju incident as an outlet for their negative feelings, Ge Xiaohui, a research fellow of east Asian studies at Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea, told the Global Times on Monday.

Some are also concerned about the fact that Chinese nationals make up most of the foreigners arrested on the island.

Jeju police arrested 347 foreigners this year as of July, among which, 240 are from China, Korea Times reported.

According to Korea Times, only last week, local police arrested eight Chinese tourists for allegedly assaulting a female restaurant owner and other customers.

However the major reason why there are more Chinese suspects in South Korea than other foreigners is that so many Chinese people visit and live in South Korea, said Su Haopeng, vice dean of the Law School at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.

More than 2.6 million foreigners visited Jeju in 2015, and Chinese visitors accounted for a whopping 85.3 percent, Yonhap reported.

"In addition, the crime rate in South Korea is increasing due to its own social and economic problems," said Ge.

Money issue

Despite popular pressure, the South Korean government seems reluctant to cancel the free-visa policy for Chinese, said the South Korean journalist.

The government needs to consider any possible impact on the island's tourism sector, as well as broader economic and diplomatic concerns when it comes to changes to the program, Won said during an emergency meeting on Monday, Yonhap reported.

Jeju began to implement the visa-free policy towards Chinese in 2008.

Though the wrongdoings of some Chinese in Korea may leave a negative impression of Chinese tourists among many South Koreans, the South Korean government is unlikely to lift the visa-free policy as Chinese investment and tourists have helped boost Jeju's economy, said Su.

According to China News Service, 90 percent of the island's duty free shops' revenue comes from Chinese tourists. As of July 2015, Chinese make up some 40 percent of foreigners who have purchased properties in Jeju.

Su said that besides shopping, many Chinese invested in Jeju island in order to obtain permanent residency or South Korean nationality.

Those who have invested more than $5 million in South Korea are eligible for permanent residency in the country.

South Korean government statistics indicate that 1,082 out of the 1,519 people who applied for South Korean permanent residency in January 2015 are Chinese. And 99 percent of investment immigrants invested in Jeju, China News Service reported.

Deng Xiaoci also contributed to this story

Newspaper headline: Tourism terror

Posted in: Society, Asia-Pacific

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