In a positive response to Seoul's decision, China said that it will actively consider lifting its visa restrictions against South Koreans. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters that South Korea's lifting of visa restrictions on China is a step in the right direction to remove obstacles to visits by the peoples of both countries.
Earlier in the day in Seoul, Kim Sung-ho, the chief of the disaster control division at the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, said that the government has made the decision to lift the visa restrictions on travelers from China as their positive test rate for COVID-19 fell to the 1 percent level recently.
According to official data, 1.1 percent of 9,492 travelers from China tested positive for the pandemic between January 29 and February 4. They were not found to have been infected with any serious variants. The proportion was drastically down from around 30 percent in late December and early January.
Kim said the move came as the coronavirus wave in China has reached a peak and began to subside in recent weeks. The decision was made over one month after South Korea suspended the issuance of short-term visas from its diplomatic missions in China for those wanting to travel to Korea on January 2 due to an upsurge in virus infections in the neighboring country.
Along with the visa restrictions, Korea has required travelers from China to be subject to a coronavirus test before and after their arrival here.
The Yoon Suk-yeol administration also plans to ease or lift other restrictions such as the mandatory virus test and the limit on the number of flights between the two countries on a gradual basis.
The government's move also appears to be aimed at avoiding a diplomatic dispute with China over the suspension of short-term visas for Chinese nations. An official said that it would be better to ease or lift those restrictions if they are unnecessary.
The conflict over the visa issue had brought about a diplomatic row between the two countries as Beijing took retaliatory action against Seoul to enforce similar visa restrictions on Korean nationals traveling to China.
Diplomatic sources expect that the two countries will now avoid such a dispute as they are moving to lift the restrictions.
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