August 11, 2023 13:45
China officially put Korea back on a list of destinations for large group tours for the first time in six years and five months on Thursday.
China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism on Thursday said group travel is now permitted to 78 countries, which newly include Korea, Japan and the U.S., now that the global threat of COVID has eased.
Earlier this year China permitted group tours again to most of the world but pointedly kept the three countries off the list amid a deepening cold war with the U.S.
The lifting of the ban is good news for some industries in Korea like duty-free malls that used to depend almost entirely on Chinese mass tourism.
Politicians welcomed the decision. A ruling party official said, "It seems that a hurdle has now been cleared for exchanges between the leaders as China has resumed group tours to Korea."
It follows a friendly meeting between President Yoon Suk-yeol and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia last November.
Xi at the time said he will "gladly accept" Yoon's invitation to visit Seoul once the pandemic ends. But a spokesman for the presidential office here said Thursday it "remains to be seen" whether Xi will visit Korea any time soon.
China is keen to regain some influence over Korea and Japan after they declared themselves firmly on the side of the U.S. in the current economic and military standoff in the region.
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