The government of Korea has announced that it will resume the issuance of short-term visas to travelers from China. The decision comes after noting the improved COVID-19 situation in China and following an anti-virus meeting on Friday.
The move marks the end of a long-standing restriction that had caused tensions between Seoul and Beijing. In December, China abruptly ended its stringent “zero-COVID” policy, leading to a surge of infections and raising the prospect of millions of Chinese travelers heading abroad for the first time in three years.
In response to the surge, Korea stopped issuing most short-term visas in January, which led to retaliation from Beijing in the form of halting short-term visas for South Korean travelers. This move caused business concerns as South Korea relies heavily on exports to China. Korea defended their restrictions, stating that the spread of the virus in China was creating concerns over the possible emergence of new variants and accused the Chinese authorities of not being transparent with their COVID data.
However, South Korea’s Vice Interior Minister Kim Sung-ho, who is in charge of disaster and safety management, stated that the lifting of restrictions was made possible due to a significant drop in infections among Chinese arrivals. When the curbs were first introduced in January, 20% of Chinese travelers to South Korea tested positive, but last week only 1.4% of Chinese travelers tested positive on arrival.
Testing requirements continue to remain in place for travelers from China. They must produce a negative test result before departure and undergo a PCR test upon arrival in South Korea. Those who test positive are required to stay in quarantine for a week.
The government has stated that testing requirements could be relaxed in the future depending on the developments of the virus. The resumption of short-term visas for travelers from China marks a positive step towards normalizing travel between the two countries and restoring the economic ties that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.