Passports belonging to a group of 31 South Koreans who arrived in China earlier this month were accidentally burned by sanitation workers after they mistook the travel documents for rubbish, local media reported on Saturday. The incident happened after they were put into a three-week mandatory quarantine at a hotel in Beijing on June 4, Yonhap news agency and Hankook Ilbo daily reported. Chinese authorities had collected their passports to make photocopies and complete the isolation paperwork. They later put the passports into a plastic bag for sterilisation, but housekeeping managers misidentified the contents in the pouch as trash and transported it with other garbage bags to be incinerated at a waste treatment plant. “This is a disaster that should not have happened. We are liaising with Chinese authorities and doing our best to minimise inconveniences for the 31 people,” an official at the South Korean embassy in Beijing was quoted as saying by the Hankook Ilbo daily. South Korea eases rules on K-pop concerts The South Korean embassy in Beijing lodged a protest with the Chinese foreign ministry and the authorities apologised to Seoul for the fiasco. Chinese officials also pledged to waive the quarantine fee for the group that costs US$1,321 per person and issue new visas for free. The South Korean mission has expedited the process to issue new passports for the 31 people but it remains unclear whether they will be able to receive them before their quarantine ends on June 25, the report said. South Korea’s citizenship law overhaul faces anti-China backlash Some of them who had planned to visit other countries including the United States were devastated after their existing visas went up in flames. Meanwhile, reports said South Korea will exempt travellers vaccinated in China from its compulsory two-week quarantine starting July 1. The country recorded 482 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, for a tally of 150,720 infections, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said, with a death toll of 1,997 since the pandemic began.