Koreans counter-protest China’s retaliation

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Koreans counter-protest China’s retaliation

The doors of one travel agency in Cheongju, North Chungcheong, are now closed as result of counter-protests to China.

The number of China-bound Korean tourists has dropped precipitously after the Chinese government’s retaliation against the installation of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system in Korea. The travel agency had sold eight of the nine regular international flights to China at Cheongju International Airport.

“After the 15th of last month, Koreans’ reservations and consultations for travel to China abruptly ceased,” said one staff member at the travel agency.

Following a notification by the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) to travel agencies on its measure prohibiting travel to Korea, there was not only a reduction of Chinese tourists bound for Korea, but also a reduction of interest by Koreans to go to China. Increasingly, netizens are observing that Koreans are being harassed in China.

April bookings for travel to China through Hana Tour, Korea’s largest travel agency, experienced a 46 percent drop from the same time last year. Reservations are being canceled in quick succession, coinciding with a drop in plans to travel in China after Beijing’s retaliatory measures hit their stride in March. Mode Tour travel agency has also experienced a similar 50 percent decrease in package tours to China.

Conversely, these two travel agencies marked a 60 percent increase in bookings to Southeast Asia this month compared to the previous year. Korean tourists who once considered China are turning their heads towards friendlier shores, namely Southeast Asia and Japan.

The travel agency industry forecasts further bookings in destinations outside China continuing after April, as bookings for overseas travel are generally sought a month or two in advance.

Another Seoul-area travel agency normally sold 80 individual or group packages to China around this time last year, but was unable to meet even 40 this April.

There were also cases of cancellations by more than 10 group packages and individual travelers of two or three people.

Some travel agencies are having a fire-sale on package tours to China, yet even they are starving for attention. The unstructured travel packages popular with the younger crowds are not immune and are unable to muster the five people necessary. Travel agencies are having to cease offering packages altogether.

“Even the Chinese Hainan five days and three night round-trip travel packages that are being offered at half the cost at 199,000 won ($178) have no takers,” said Moon, a staff member at a travel agency in Daegu.

After the retaliation against the Thaad antimissile system by the Chinese government, airports and duty-free stores in Korea are suffering from a dearth of demand.

Cheongju International Airport has ceased operating six of their eight routes to China since March 15 and Daegu International Airport has also temporarily discontinued two of six flights to China since March.

BY CHOI KYUNG-HO, CHOI JONG-KWON AND KIM MIN-WOOK [hwang.hosub@joongang.co.kr]
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