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China's THAAD retaliation lingers in South Korea

By Elizabeth Shim
China's THAAD retaliation lingers in South Korea
Foreign tourists walk past shops bearing Chinese signs in Seoul's Myeongdong shopping district. Tourism is expected to recover, following a partial lifting of a Chinese travel ban. Photo by Yonhap

Nov. 28 (UPI) -- China is showing signs of easing restrictions that were in place on South Korea-bound tourism, but South Korean businesses are not expecting immediate improvements to their bottom line.

Chinese tourists who flocked to Seoul and other popular destinations by the millions each season are only being allowed to travel to Korea from select Chinese cities and regions, Yonhap reported Tuesday.

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There are still unofficial bans against Chinese travel to South Korea by chartered planes and cruise ships.

According to South Korean news service iNews24, South Korean tour operators are still not permitted to resume sale of travel packages through online sites.

Chinese economic sanctions against South Korean businesses began after Seoul agreed to jointly deploy THAAD, a U.S. missile defense system.

The deployment was followed by a series of unofficial economic sanctions against South Korean businesses operating in China, including a ban on Chinese tourism to South Korea.

Seoul and Beijing have recently come to a new understanding regarding the sanctions and have agreed to normalize ties.

Only Chinese nationals who are also residents of Shandong Province and Beijing, the capital, are allowed to travel to South Korea, according to Yonhap's sources in the South Korean travel industry.

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One South Korean source affiliated with conglomerate Lotte spoke disapprovingly of the sanctions.

"I am perplexed by the way we have been treated so disadvantageously because of a diplomatic and political issue over THAAD," the source said.

Other South Koreans affected by sanctions said it would take a "few months" for the industry to fully recover from the embargoes.

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