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Chinese tourists

Detentions of scores of mainlanders at Jeju airport could tarnish South Korea’s popularity with Chinese tourists

Visa-free entry for Chinese to scenic South Korean islands has turned out to be a mixed blessing

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 October, 2016, 11:37pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 October, 2016, 11:56pm

South Korea remained the most popular destination for outbound tourism during the past National Day holidays, although having dozens of mainland tourists denied entry at Jeju airport during the week might dampen tourists’ interest in future, analysts warned.

Although the volcanic island resort offers visa-free entry to Chinese tourists, scores were denied entry for various reasons and stranded in the restricted area in the airport, The Beijing News reported yesterday.

“South Korea is very popular and the visa-free policy on Jeju is especially attractive for those who haven’t planned their trip far in advance,” said Zhang Hui, a tourism management professor at Beijing Jiaotong University. “But denying entry to such a large number of visitors will definitely have an impact on future visitor numbers.”

But Cui Zhiying, a Korean affairs expert at Shanghai’s Tongji University,said such incidents were isolated and would not affect China-Korea relations.

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More than 100 mainlanders were held in the restricted area during the holidays, some of them for up to five days, The Beijing News said.

Xiu Mingye, a Chinese consular official in Jeju, told the People’s Daily that denial of entry had always happened since the two countries officially established diplomatic ties and it was up to Korea set its own standards for immigration intent or invalid travel documents.

A tourist from Nanjing told the Beijing News that he had booked a five-day, four-night tour online because he had never travelled overseas and also because of the visa-free policy. However, he was barred entry on the grounds that he did not hold a hotel reservation on paper.

He and his wife had been staying in the restricted area since Thursday to await their return flight.

They slept on the floor and ate takeaway food paid for with their own money.

Xu, the consular official, said the airport had also stepped up scrutiny of Chinese visitors following two violent incidents involving Chinese visitors to the island last month.

But Cui Zhiying, a Korean affairs expert at Shanghai’s Tongji University,said such incidents were isolated cases and would not affect the China-Korea relations.

More than 100 Chinese tourists had come and go in the restricted area during the National Day holidays. Some passengers had been stranded there for five days, Beijing News said.

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Xiu Mingye, consulate at the Chinese Consulate General in Jeju, Korea, told the People’s Daily that denying entry had always happened since the two countries officially established diplomatic ties and it was up to Korea’s own standard on immigration intent or unsound travel document.

One tourist from Nanjing told the Beijing News that he booked a five-day, four-night tour on a website because he had never been abroad before and he heard the visa-free policy was more convenient than going through but was held for “without hotel reservation in paper”.

He and his wife had been staying in the restricted area since Thursday to wait for his return flight.

They slept on the floor and ate food box at their own expenses.

The airport also stepped up scrutiny on Chinese visitors since two violent crimes were committed by Chinese visitors in the island last month, Xiu said.

According to The Beijing News, 99 per cent of visitors to Jeju had been Chinese ever since it adopted the visa-free policy and 7,664 visitors were denied entry last year. The number of people denied entry by August this year was 8,589.