China and South Korea will coordinate and establish a mechanism for the mutual recognition of their health codes, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday, in a move that would help further normalize business and tourism activities between the two countries.
Efforts by the two neighbors could also drive more Asian countries to set up health code recognition programs that could bode well for a regional economic rebound, industry observers said.
China and South Korea agreed to support the inclusion of each other's citizens into their COVID-19 vaccination programs and work together to establish a mutual recognition mechanism for health codes, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a press briefing in Beijing on Tuesday.
The two neighbors established a fast entry policy, known as the "green channel" in May last year, for essential business travels between the two countries. The policy has enabled many South Korean employees in multinational companies such as Samsung and LG to fly back to China to work.
"This is a necessary move as the situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic has largely improved in Asia. Last year, bilateral personnel communication between China and South Korea almost ground to a standstill, and the free flow of workers will allow bilateral business and investment in technology, electronics and tourism to continue recovering to a large extent," Zhang Huizhi, vice dean of the Northeast Asian Studies College at Jilin University, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
China and South Korea have maintained a robust trade relationship. In 2020, bilateral trade grew 0.3 percent year-on-year to $285.3 billion despite the fallout of the pandemic, customs data showed. Also last year, the two countries joined 13 other economies to sign the mega Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP.
The agreement on the health codes recognition mechanism will also play a key role in stabilizing regional supply chains, in particular in the semiconductor sector, analysts said.
Zhang noted that the mutual health code recognition program between two major Asian economies will play an exemplary role, encouraging more Asian economies to set up similar mechanisms.
"It may also be a rehearsal for a trial run of a 'vaccine passport' on a small scale," Zhang said.
In addition to South Korea, China and some Southeast Asian countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines are also seeking further cooperation on the mutual recognition of health codes.