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S. Korea tells some Chinese travel agencies to halt visa application services

All Headlines 14:18 April 04, 2016

SHENYANG, China, April 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korean authorities have told a total of 52 Chinese travel agencies in the northeastern region to temporarily halt their visa application services for Chinese people who plan to visit South Korea, a source with knowledge of the matter said Monday.

The exact reason behind the measure was not immediately clear, but some officials at the Chinese companies said it might have been related to sales of their package tours of North Korea.

In China's three northeastern provinces bordering North Korea, there are 123 Chinese tour firms that provide visa application services for Chinese citizens who plan to visit South Korea.

Of them, 52 travel agencies -- 23 in Jilin province, 21 in Liaoning and eight in Heilongjiang -- were recently told by South Korean authorities that their visa application services will be temporarily suspended from April 16.

"The relevant authorities notified us that we can provide visa application services until April 15 and can't provide the same services from then onwards," an employee of one of the Chinese travel firms told the source.

Asked about the reason, the employee told the source, "It may be related to sales of package tours to North Korea at a time when the U.N. Security Council resolution is being implemented."

North Korea was slapped with tougher U.N. sanctions earlier last month for conducting its fourth nuclear test in January and launching a long-range rocket about a month later.

There is no official data about the number of Chinese tourists visiting North Korea, but the number is said to be around 100,000 per year.

A South Korean official here confirmed that some Chinese travel agencies were told to halt their visa applications, but the measure was related to their financial stability and cases involving illegal migrants.

South Korea has required Chinese people to apply for visas via designated agencies since September 2007.
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