SHANGHAI/SEOUL, March 2 (Korea Bizwire) – China has instructed travel agencies in the country to stop selling trips to South Korea, sources said Thursday, in what is seen as another retaliatory move against Seoul’s decision to deploy an advanced U.S. anti-missile defense system.
According to industry sources in China, the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) called travel agencies in Beijing for a meeting on Thursday and gave them verbal instructions to suspend sales of all travel packages, both online and offline, to South Korea.
It means that any package tours or free trips sold by travel agencies will not be available to Chinese wishing to visit Korea.
While ordering to immediately put a halt on all trip sales, the agency told them to exhaust those that have already been sold by mid-March, sources said.
Such a measure will likely be imposed on the travel agencies based in other cities nationwide following regional meetings that will be held soon, they added.
The move by the Chinese authorities is the latest in a series of what are viewed as retaliatory acts against the planned deployment of a high-tech U.S. anti-missile defense system in Seoul, known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD).
China has slammed Seoul for deciding to install the THAAD battery on its own soil, claiming that it will undermine regional security in East Asia, as it is capable of spying on Beijing’s military developments.
Seoul and Washington reached the agreement on THAAD in July last year, planning to complete the deployment as early as August.
Lotte, South Korea’s retail giant, has been under fire since it handed over a plot of land it owned as a golf course to the government to be used as the site for the THAAD deployment.
Lotte has been suffering a heavy blow, with its Web sites in both China and Korea experiencing shutdowns from an unidentified hacking attack which was widely suspected to have been initiated by Beijing.