China Suspends Visas for South Koreans

China is suspending short-term visas for South Koreans seeking to visit the country in an apparent retaliation of South Korea’s new coronavirus testing requirements on Chinese visitors.

The China Embassy in Seoul made the announcement Tuesday on its official WeChat account. The statement said it would lift the suspension once Seoul ends its “discriminatory” entry restrictions against Chinese citizens. The new policy was announced a day after Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang expressed concerns about Seoul’s entry requirements during a phone call with South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin.

Park’s office says he told his Chinese counterpart that South Korea’s entry requirements were imposed on a “scientific basis.”

Japan’s Kyodo news agency says travel agencies have been informed that China has also stopped issuing short-term visas for Japanese travelers.

The new requirements, which took effect last week, calls for visitors from China to undergo a rapid COVID-19 test within the first day of entering South Korea. Arrivals must also remain in separate facilities until their test results are confirmed. A Chinese man briefly evaded authorities after testing positive for COVID-19 after entering South Korea last week.

South Korea’s new testing requirements were imposed just weeks after Beijing abruptly reversed its strict “zero-Covid” strategy on December 7. The strategy, first imposed in 2020, included swift and severe lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing in several cities with a significant COVID-19 outbreak. It triggered unusual and intense public protests across many Chinese cities and an economic downturn due to factory shutdowns.

But the end of the “zero-Covid” strategy has also led to an apparent resurgence of the virus, especially in rural China. Kan Quanquan, the director of Henan province’s health commission, revealed Monday that 89% of the province’s 99.3 million residents have tested positive for COVID-19. Nearly 90% of Henan province’s population are in rural areas.

Source: Voice of America