South Korea will allow a special no-visa entry for Chinese tourists this winter in an effort to boost Winter Olympic ticket sales as jitters grew over political tensions heightened by North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile test.
Any Chinese visitors can stay for 15 days in South Korea without visa if they have Winter Olympic tickets purchased through designated Chinese travel agencies, the justice ministry said. Chinese tourists would be granted an extended five-day stay if they travel aboard cruise ships to two eastern ports, Donghae and Sokcho, near the Olympic venue.
The rare move takes effect from December 1 through the end of March. However, those who once violated South Korean laws and had a record of illegal stay or extradition will be excluded.
As ticket sales remain stagnant, Seoul stepped up a campaign to attract more Chinese visitors to the Pyeongchang Olympic Games from February 9-25. Since the two nations agreed on October 31 to normalize their relations strained by a U.S. missile shield, Beijing has partially lifted a ban on group tours to South Korea.
A day after North Korea tested an ICBM on Wednesday, Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon expressed concern that high cross-border tensions could affect the successful hosting of the Winter Games. "Most important of all, the Games should be held in a stable atmosphere because more North Korean provocations can have a devastating impact on their (success)."
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