China has reacted furiously to the new Covid restrictions placed on Chinese travelers in South Korea and Japan by shutting down visas for individuals from those countries. This means that South Korean and Japanese nationals will no longer be able to enter China on short-term visas.
The decision made by Chinese officials comes after Japan and South Korea tightened their guidelines for Chinese travelers. Currently, South Korea is no longer issuing tourist visas for those coming from china, while Japan is demanding that all Chinese travelers present a negative Covid test to enter the country.
Japan isn’t the only country in the world to have placed these types of restrictions on Chinese travelers, with the United Kingdom and the United States having the same guidelines. What China may have taken particular offense to, however, is that Japan is also restricting flights from China altogether to certain cities.
Officials in Beijing have said that this pause on Japanese and South Korean visas will stay in place until the “discriminatory” entry requirements across the two countries against Chinese tourists are lifted. They have labeled the specific restrictions in South Korea as “unacceptable” and “unscientific.”
COVID on the Rise in China
Although China has reacted poorly to the restrictions being placed on its residents from countries around the world, it is hardly surprising. Cases have surged since they ditched their “zero-covid” policies last month, with Henan officials stating that over 88m of their residents have been infected with Covid.
Many countries worldwide are still scarred by what happened last time; they were slow to react to an outbreak of the virus and are understandably exercising caution. When you also consider that much of the data surrounding Covid coming out of China is sketchy, it would arguably be negligent for other nations to not take precautionary action.
South Korea’s foreign ministry has responded to the backlash from China by stating that their travel policies in relation to Chinese travelers are “in accordance with scientific and objective evidence” despite claims of the contrary from officials in Beijing.
The South Korean Disease Control and Prevention Agency have stated that before the visa restrictions placed on Chinese tourists, around a third of people arriving from China were testing positive for China. If that trend continued, it wouldn’t be long until South Korea also faced a monumental surge in cases.
Support From the Korean People
All in all, the move to pause visas for Chinese people has been greeted with positivity in South Korea. The BBC has spoken to several South Koreans at Incheon airport in Seol, and the consensus was that the decision is right, even if it might be politically motivated.
One man said that “there is a political element to it” and that “the relationship between the countries isn’t good.” He added that “a lot of Korean people hold a lot of animosity towards china, blaming them for the coronavirus.”
Meanwhile, a South Korean woman at the airport suggested that if the country in question weren’t China, the level of strictness wouldn’t have been quite as severe.
The restrictions in South Korea are currently set to last until the end of the month, although it isn’t out of the question that they will last longer than that. The plan is for scientists to analyze any potentially new variants coming from China to determine the threat level they are dealing with before making any long-term decisions.