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Chinese tour group to visit Jeju after THAAD row

All Headlines 16:13 January 22, 2018

JEJU, South Korea, Jan. 22 (Yonhap) -- A Chinese school excursion group will visit South Korea's southernmost resort island of Jeju next week, a Chinese agency operating here said Monday, drawing attention over whether the trip will be a signal of the restarting of China's banned group tours to the country.

The Chinese government banned sales of Korea-bound package tours in 2016 in retaliation against the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system, called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), on South Korean soil, claiming the system is a grave security threat to it.

Amid the diplomatic uproar, the number of visitors from China nose-dived, with that in the January-November period registering a 49.1 percent drop from a year earlier, according to Korea Customs Office data. Chinese visitors accounted for nearly half of the 17 million foreigners who visited South Korea in 2016.

"The school excursion group will enter the country via Jeju Airport at 2 p.m. next Tuesday," the agency under the Beijing-based Research and Travel Working Committee said.

The group consists of 67 scholarship students and teachers from 24 elementary and middle schools in Beijing and the Chinese provinces of Shandong and Shanxi, it said.

The group tour, if implemented, will be the first of its kind since Dec. 14, when the leaders of the two countries agreed to resolve the THAAD controversy harmoniously at their summit in Beijing.

During their five-day stay, the students will visit tourist attractions and take part in various education programs, including taekwondo and Korean food-making, the agency said.

This file photo, taken March 2017, shows a Jeju street, quiet since China's ban on sales of group tours to South Korea over THAAD. (Yonhap)

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