Korea Doesn't Need Chinese Tourists
China's National Tourism Administration summoned travel agents from Shandong Province this week and informed them that it has again banned package tours to Korea effective January next year. The same seems to be happening in Beijing.
China imposed the ban on cut-price group tours to Korea in March this year in retaliation against the U.S. deployment of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery here, but it partially eased the ban for Shandong Province and Beijing on Nov. 28 after the two countries agreed to normalize ties. Now, just six days after President Moon Jae-in's cap-in-hand visit to Beijing, it has been reinstated, and the government here is dumbfounded.
Only on Tuesday, Moon told officials in a Cabinet meeting to "actively publicize" the achievements of his China visit, claiming that relations have recovered and Korea has "safeguarded its security interests." More, the government trumpeted an expected 0.2 percentage-point rise in economic growth now that things are going so well.
Yet the signs were already there. On Monday, just two days after Moon's visit, five Chinese military aircraft whizzed through Korea's air defense identification zone without warning, and around 30 Korean, Japanese and Chinese fighter planes were in the air simultaneously around Ieo and Jeju islands and Japan's Tsushima Island for almost four hours. Air defense identification zones are not officially sovereign airspace, but foreign aircraft entering another country's zone must notify the host before passing through.
The Chinese government has also made no effort to investigate a savage assault by Chinese security guards on two Korean reporters in Beijing during Moon's visit, let alone apologized for the thuggery.
When he was in Beijing, Moon abjectly referred to China as a "high mountain peak" while describing Korea as a "small country." But kowtowing to bullies never wins their respect. China has no track record of conducting relations with other countries based on equality and reciprocity. It thinks it deserves obeisance from its regional neighbors and aspires to global dominance.
Yet China is the only country in the world that uses something as pathetic as package tours as a weapon, and one of just a handful of banana republics that tell their people where they can and cannot go shopping. Korea's tourism industry must wean itself off its dependency on cheap Chinese package tours and thwart these silly attacks.