Tensions rise between South Korea and China after Chinese tourists are denied entry to Jeju island

Once upon a time.
Once upon a time.
Image: EPA/Yonhap
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The row between China and South Korea over Chinese tourists on the resort island of Jeju is deepening.

Following a recent spate of violent crimes conducted by Chinese tourists in Jeju last month, some Chinese tourists were reportedly barred from entering Jeju—one of the favorite destinations for Chinese tourists—during the recent Golden Week holiday.

Photos of Chinese tourists stuck at Jeju airport from social media.

According to a Beijing Times report, the tourists were held at Jeju airport, prevented from entering the island. Jeju immigration officials reportedly kept the Chinese visitors in a room at the airport, where they were waiting for flights to return to China. Among the tourists, a couple named Zhang who flew into the island on Oct. 6 told the newspaper that they were rejected because they did not have letters showing their hotel bookings. The couple said they joined other stranded Chinese tourists in the airport room afterwards, where some had been waiting since Oct. 2.

China’s consulate in Jeju released a statement on Oct.8 (link in Chinese) saying that even tourists who have valid passports and visas can be barred from entering a country by immigration officials.

State news agency Xinhua (link in Chinese) said yesterday (Oct. 9) that Korea is tightening its border controls because of growing concern over the number of people remaining illegally in the country. With over 200,000 Chinese tourists visiting Korea over the seven-day National Day holiday period, and some 70,000 of them going to Jeju, Xinhua said it wasn’t surprising that more immigration conflicts were happening, and that this wasn’t the first time such an incident had occurred.

Jeju started letting Chinese tourists enter the island visa-free for up to 30 days in 2008. Over 99% of the island’s nearly three million visitors since 2002 came from China, according to South Korean TV station Arirang, adding that some Korean officials believe that some of the tourists try to enter Jeju illegally and then attempt to secure a job on the island or in other parts of Korea. Following a rise in crime by Chinese tourists in Jeju recently, some Koreans are calling for the visa-free policy to be reconsidered.