China on Wednesday abruptly closed a loophole that provided multiple-entry visas for Korean business travelers, apparently in retaliation for a recent decision to station U.S. missile defense batteries in Korea, source from Chosun said yesterday.
A couple of agencies facilitating visa applications by issuing invitation letters to Koreans have apparently been closed down.
Travel industry sources said the move was part of China's retaliation against Korea for deciding to deploy a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery here.
The decision has agitated Chinese state media, which have warned darkly of "consequences" Korea "cannot afford."
According to the Foreign Ministry here, the agencies issued letters of invitation for Koreans, a requirement for multiple-entry visas for business trips and cultural exchanges.
That means that smaller Korean businesses and private businesspeople without big official partners now have more trouble going on vital trips.
One diplomatic source said, "China used to accept most letters of invitation, but now intends to do everything by the book."
One travel industry source said, "It will be more difficult for Koreans doing business in China to travel back and forth using short-term, single-entry visas that take several days to be issued."
Big Korean companies that can get bona-fide invitation letters from their Chinese subsidiaries are not expected to be affected.
China also seems to be limiting mass travel to Korea, a popular destination for corporate bonus trips in firms with hundreds or thousands of staff.
According to travel industry sources, 3,000 Chinese who had planned to visit Korea next month to watch a World Cup preliminary between the two countries apparently canceled their trip.