China Reopens Its Borders to South Korean Tourists Amid Covid-19 Pandemic
On Saturday, the Chinese embassy in Seoul announced that short-term visas will be granted to South Korean citizens, including business, transit, and personal visit visas. This decision comes after South Korea resumed issuing visas to Chinese visitors due to a significant decrease in Covid-19 infections among Chinese arrivals.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning praised Seoul’s decision and expressed China’s willingness to reciprocate the visa resumption. Last month, South Korea suspended short-term visas for Chinese visitors after China’s shift in policy towards living with the virus caused a surge in infections and deaths, leading to visa restrictions imposed by Tokyo and Seoul, and retaliation from Beijing in halting short-term visas for South Korean and Japanese visitors.
Japan announced on January 22 that visa services in mainland China had returned to normal, indicating a relaxation of its travel restrictions. The following week, China began issuing visas to Japanese residents. This lifting of visa suspensions follows a three-year period of strict zero-Covid measures, which were fully lifted on January 8, and is expected to result in a surge of Chinese tourists eager to travel abroad.
Mainland China restarted group tours overseas on February 7, with travel agencies permitted to organize trips to 20 countries, excluding popular destinations such as Japan and South Korea. Despite the relaxation of travel restrictions, some countries still have limitations on visitors from China. Meanwhile, China’s Covid-19 cases have decreased, with no new variants emerging during the country’s first wave of the pandemic. Singapore did not impose restrictions on Chinese visitors due to the absence of new variants of concern.