Thaad has little effect on tourism

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Thaad has little effect on tourism

China’s stern rebuke of Korea’s decision to deploy a U.S.-operated missile defense system on the peninsula by the end of next year has not abated the surge of Chinese tourists visiting the country, the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) said Friday.

According to the KTO, a governmental institution under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, roughly 1.03 million Chinese tourists came to Korea during the five weeks after the Korean government announced deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system on July 8. The figure is a 15.9 percent increase from the number of Chinese tourists who visited the country in the five weeks before the announcement, from June 4 to July 7.

“Even when the Middle East respiratory syndrome outbreak hit the nation’s economy [last year], tourism between Korea and China reached 10 million people,” the KTO said in a statement Friday. “Trade ties between Korea and China are active since each plays an important role in the tourism industry of the other country.”

The influx of Chinese visitors reached a monthly record in July. A total of 4.73 million Chinese tourists visited the country last month, a 41 percent increase compared to 2014. The boost also led to the highest monthly record in the total number of foreign visitors at 9.8 million, up 23 percent from 2014.

Visitors from Taiwan amounted to 480,000 people, followed by Hong Kong with 370,000 and Indonesia with 160,000.

“We will strengthen promotion to develop customized tourism products catered to people visiting Korea from major countries, especially China,” a KTO spokesperson said.

However, it is still early to be too optimistic about Korea-China relations. According to the Incheon Tourism Organization, stationed in a popular area for Chinese visitors, Chinese companies and tourists are delaying or canceling their scheduled visits to Korea.

Incheon’s Nam District Office was originally planning a fashion show with traditional Chinese clothing called qipao in October, but the show has been put on hold. Some 2,200 Chinese visitors were expected to participate in the show.

“The Chinese agency in charge of inviting tourists said the country is in tension due to the Thaad issue and that it would be better to delay the event, so we decided to do so,” a Nam District Office official said.

Several other events held by the Incheon city government have faced similar difficulties. The government was notified scheduled events would have fewer participating tourists than planned.

“We are not sure if it is the impact of Thaad or individuals changing their mind because we don’t think the Chinese government would restrict a small group of tourists from visiting Korea,” an Incheon city government official said. “But we will observe the situation carefully.”

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