China to renew visas for South Koreans after row with COVID | Aviation

The move comes after Seoul lifted COVID-related travel restrictions on arrivals from China last week.

China will restore short-term visas for travelers from South Korea after Seoul lifted pandemic-related travel restrictions that angered Beijing.

China will start processing short-term visas for South Koreans for “business, transit and other private affairs” from Saturday, the Chinese embassy in Seoul said in a post on its official WeChat account on Wednesday.

China stopped issuing short-term visas to South Koreans in January after Seoul imposed COVID-19 restrictions on travelers from China amid concerns that Beijing would suddenly end its controversial “zero-COVID” policy because it could trigger new variants of the coronavirus.

South Korea’s government began issuing visas last week amid reports that China’s wave of COVID infections had peaked, after previously hinting it would limit visas until the end of February.

At the time, China’s Foreign Ministry called South Korea’s move a “step in the right direction” to facilitate people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.

More than a dozen countries, including Japan, South Korea and the United States, imposed travel restrictions on arrivals from China after Beijing lifted quarantines, mass testing and quarantines following rare mass protests late last year.

Beijing has condemned the curbs as discriminatory and without scientific basis. Some health experts have also questioned the need for restrictions given the spread of the virus elsewhere and the widespread availability of vaccines.

South Korea is one of China’s largest sources of tourism, with more than 4 million South Korean visitors to the country in 2018. Chinese are the largest group of tourists to South Korea, accounting for more than one-third of the 17.5 million arrivals in 2019.

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