Chinese officials ban charter flights to Korea

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Chinese officials ban charter flights to Korea

The Chinese government banned Korea-bound chartered flights in January and February, a move seen as another retaliation over Korea’s decision to deploy a missile defense system.

The move is expected to put a serious dent in Korea’s tourism industry, which peaks around the Lunar New Year holiday. China hasn’t specified the reason for its sudden prohibition of chartered flights.

According to industry sources, the Civil Aviation Administration of China rejected eight flights requested by three Korean airlines - Jeju Air, Jin Air, Asiana Airlines - for January and February for unknown reasons. Requests to expand regular flights between China and Korea also have been denied.

“The aviation authority of China maintained a dubious attitude for the month of March and April as well,” said an insider from a Beijing-based travel agency on Friday, signaling the ban may continue for months.

Korea’s tourism industry relies heavily on Chinese tourists. The Lunar New Year, which falls on Jan. 28 this year, is one of the peak seasons for the domestic travel industry. Industry insiders are concerned Chinese travel agencies may avoid tours to Korea.

The airlines usually request chartered flights on the 20th of every month to the Chinese aviation authority to run the flights the following month. However, with the Chinese authority rejecting the requests, local travel agencies now have to find alternative flights or pay cancellation fees to those who signed up for Korea tours.

“We have never experienced such disapproval of chartered flights by the Chinese government,” said an official from the Korean embassy in China. “It seems to be highly intentional.”

The Chinese government has been rolling out a series of intentional acts that appear to be in retaliation to the Korean government’s decision last year to install the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system.

In September, China toughened the process needed to receive a Chinese visa, and then restricted Korean celebrities from appearing on Chinese TV shows. Some Korean companies in China, such as Lotte Group, also faced sudden business inspections from authorities in November, including tax audits and safety evaluations.

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