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Politics

China's ban on group tours to South Korea partially lifted

Authorities reportedly declare 'normalization' of sales

Chinese tourists shop at the Shilla IPark Duty Free shop in Seoul on March 25, 2016.   © Reuters

SEOUL/BEIJING -- Several travel agencies in Beijing have begun selling group tours to South Korea again, apparently in response to an administrative order to "normalize" such sales.

China banned all group tours to South Korea in mid-March in response to the South Korean government's decision to allow U.S. forces to deploy anti-missile Terminal High Altitude Area Defense systems in South Korea.

South Korea's Yonhap News Agency said Thursday that tourism authorities in Beijing have told 10 major travel agencies in the city that they will normalize group tours to South Korea. The statement may have prompted travel agencies to resume sales of such tours.

One agency in Beijing said on Saturday that it has resumed sales of South Korean group tours, but several others said they still do not accept requests for such tours.

The tour ban was partially lifted in November, making them available in Beijing and Shandong Province, after South Korea and China agreed in late October to work to improve relations. But they were halted again immediately after South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited China in mid-December.

There has been speculation that China reimposed the ban because it was not happy with the outcome of the summit talks with Moon. It is unclear why the ban has been lifted again, but some observers believe Beijing is satisfied that its message of displeasure to Seoul over the anti-missile system was received.

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