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Chinese visitors avoid South Korea amid virus crisis

Incheon International Airport (Yonhap)
Incheon International Airport (Yonhap)

Chinese travelers were totally absent from South Korean airports Saturday, amid toughened entry restrictions due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

According to immigration data released by the Justice Ministry, not a single Chinese national went through immigration for the first time in 28 years. The two countries established bilateral relations in August 1992.

The average number of Chinese entering Korea per day was around 15,000 until January, when it began declining. It reached 464 on March 29 before hitting zero this past weekend.

Until January, around 18,000 Chinese nationals departed from Korea on an average day. That number dropped to 175 on April 1, before hitting zero.

Following the COVID-19 outbreak, Korea has banned entry to anyone traveling from China’s Hubei province, where the virus originated late last year, and invalidated already-issued travel visas from the region. It also halted visa-free entry to Jeju Island from China. Hit by falling travel demand, local air carriers have reduced or suspended flights between the two countries.

The ministry explained that while Korea has not imposed an outright entry ban on Chinese nationals, the sweeping measures amount to a de facto entry ban.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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