A total of 3,400 Chinese passengers refused to go ashore when their cruise ship docked at South Korea’s southern resort island of Jeju on Saturday, as tensions between China and South Korea have been increasing recently, according to Chosun Ilbo, a South Korea news outlet.
The cruise ship's captain as well as the South Korean personnel at the customs and quarantine department were unaware of the situation until the ship docked at the port and some 80 charter buses and tour guides that had been on standby to herd the group around Jeju waited in vain for business, the report said, citing a local government official.
It was reported that the Chinese passengers were staff from a Chinese enterprise on a trip organized for them as a reward.
The story came amid heightened tensions between China and South Korea after Lotte and South Korea's military signed a land swap deal recently to enable authorities to deploy THAAD, which the Chinese government regarded as a threat to its national security and has repeatedly said to take necessary measures against it.
Many Chinese travel agencies and some travel websites have suspended tourism products related to South Korea, which has been suspected by many as China’s retaliation against South Korea.
“South Korean people love THAAD, but we (Chinese) love our country more,” Li Wei, the general manager of Beijing Enjoy World International Travel Service Co., told sino-us.com previously, adding that his company has already stopped selling South Korea-related tourism products and would suggest their customers to visit other destinations.
In the meantime, Beijing has also repeated its consistent and strong opposition against the deployment of THAAD in South Korea.
During a recent press conference held in Beijing, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said the introduction of THAAD is an obvious mistake, which will not only hurt the interest of neighboring countries, but also threaten the security of South Korea itself.
He added that the biggest problem in the current China-South Korea relations is also the controversial deployment plan of the THAAD system by South Korea and the United States.
Saturday’s move was being seen as the latest reaction by Chinese tourists to the THAAD plans, and it was reportedly the first time that such a large group of passengers refused to disembark at Jeju over two decades.
The Jeju Island has been very popular with tourists from China in recent years with its nice environment and a convenient visa policy. According to Chosun Ilbo, about 700 cruise ships are to dock on the island this year, and most are from China. But local tourism businesses are concerned that many more passengers will not leave their ships.