Airlines, travel agencies report resuming cross-border flights and packages
○ Chinese and Korean ministries of foreign affairs announced last month the recovery of relations for the first time since THAAD
○ There are immediate signs of improvement, such as advertisements for airlines and travel agencies
○ Many citizens are still critical of South Korea. Expert says the key to true recovery is mutual respect and cultivating mutual interests
Two weeks after China and South Korea formally announced plans to recover their relationship, there are already budding signs of improvement. Chinese travel agencies are tentatively considering bringing back South Korean tourism packages and Korean shops are offering better deals for Chinese customers.
At a joint conference between the Chinese and the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs on October 31, officials declared that both sides will push for the development of strategic relations. After a very tense year due to the deployment of the US anti-missile Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, the two neighbors now agree that it is in everyone's best interests to improve their relationship.
This decision is being hailed by leaders, experts and citizens from both countries.
For Chinese and Koreans working in the tourism sector, no other news could be more welcome. China's BTG International Travel told the Global Times that their travel packages to South Korea were halted following THAAD, but it can be brought back instantly if needed. Staff members from China Youth Travel Service told the Global Times that their programs will likely be re-launched by February of next year.
China's Spring Airlines announced on its official website it has restarted flights from Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, to Korea's Jeju Island, which were halted in July due to a drastic reduction of Chinese passengers after THAAD.
According to Reuters, the Korean counterpart Asiana Airlines is offering discounted tickets from China to cities in South Korea on Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba's Alitrip website between November 11 and 15, as well as free airport lounge passes for passengers transiting at Seoul's Incheon Airport.
Korea's local Kyonggi government announced it will participate in an international tourism expo to be held in Kunming, Yunnan Province, this month to advertise its winter travel packages in the hopes of attracting Chinese consumers.
Korean e-retailers jumped all over China's Double 11 Day shopping festival last week. On November 11, Korea's duty-free shop Hanwha Galleria ran a promotion to get Chinese consumers to click on banner advertisements of its Chinese website, offering rewards for the first 111 customers. Doota Duty Free shop provided store credit on its Chinese online mall for 1,111 people every day leading up to November 11.
A spokesperson from South Korean Lotte Corp said last week that the Chengdu government recently approved the second phase of construction for one of its real estate development projects. The project, a collection of shopping malls, movie theaters and residential areas, was halted earlier in the year as a result of the THAAD fallout.
Grass-roots organizations and think tanks are also organizing trips and exchanges between the two nations. On November 6, media commentators and bloggers led by China's think tank Chahar Institute headed to Seoul at the invitation of the Korea Foundation, which is under the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Last Wednesday, the association arranged for a team of monks to perform martial arts at the 70th anniversary celebration of Kyonggi University.