Last July, South Korea announced the decision to deploy THAAD, a U.S-produced missile defense system. Since then, the Chinese government has retaliated with a number of subtle and explicit measures, including denying South Korean entertainers access to its lucrative market.
Its latest pushback appears to be discouraging Chinese citizens from traveling to South Korea. On Friday, Korea Tourism Organization’s press department told Korea Exposé that the Chinese government held a meeting recently with “key travel agencies,” instructing them to suspend all sales of trips to South Korea. KTO said this suspension will take effect starting Mar. 15. South Korea’s foreign ministry has yet to make an official statement. China opposes the THAAD deployment as an expansion of the U.S. military presence in East Asia.
What kind of reaction in South Korea so far?
At their high-level meetings, political parties from across South Korea’s political spectrum condemned the Chinese government’s decision. This is a rare show of consensus, as the parties had previously been divided in their reactions to THAAD.
Public reaction has been mixed on Twitter, with some strong denunciations of China:
“China has acted like a loser, with the government directly intervening, so maybe we should just voluntarily restrain ourselves from traveling to China.”
Some pointed fingers within South Korea, at political parties, politicians, the current administration.
역대정부에서 사드배치 왜 안했겠냐? 글로벌 병쉰 박근혜정권의 무능이 국가경제와 안보를 파탄내는구나"
어느나라가 우리나라에 투자 하겠냐?
사드배치로 인해 미국과 중국의 화약고가 될텐데"
해야될건 안하고 안해야 될건 하는 글로벌 병신 박근혜정부
— 설동경 (@mymrnara) March 3, 2017
“Why do you think previous administrations did not deploy THAAD? The incompetence of the Park Geun-hye administration, a global moron, is destroying our national economy and security. Who’s going to invest in our country? It’ll soon become a battlefield between the U.S. and China….”
중국의 사드 배치 관련 보복을 비이성적이라고 하기 전에,
4조 들여 배치해도 대북 미사일 방어에 아무 쓸모 없는 걸,
비이성적으로 세금 퍼주고 배치하는 우리 국방부와 정부가 이성적인지 물어볼 일.
중국은 전략적으로 이성적이다.
— 플래니모 (@Planemo_X) March 3, 2017
“Before we denounce China’s retaliatory action in connection with THAAD as irrational, let’s think about who’s more irrational: them, or the South Korean government that paid 4 trillion won to deploy a useless missile defense system. China is strategically very rational.”
(The Defense Ministry didn’t confirm the exact cost of THAAD deployment, saying the number cannot be publicized.)
미국이 중국의 사드배치 보복을 비이성적이고 부적절하다는 고강도 성명을 발표했다. 현재 롯데는 물론 전체 한국기업에 대한 중국의 보복은 전방위적이다. 박근혜 정부의 사드배치에 대한 안일한 인식이 화를 자초했다. 기업과 민간 손실은 정부가 책임져야 한다. https://t.co/HEIKNOZldD
— 빈무덤 2 (@xRFsWAyUwLC02P9) March 2, 2017
“The U.S. just made a strong statement calling China’s retaliations irrational and inappropriate. Currently, the Chinese retributions against South Korean companies including Lotte are extensive and indiscriminate. The Park administration’s complacency over THAAD deployment brought this upon us. The government should be held responsible for the losses suffered by companies and the civilian sector.”
A column in Chosun Ilbo lamented South Korea’s over-dependence on the Chinese market: “If we do not decrease the dependence, China’s condescending tyrannies against South Korea will continue.”
On Friday morning, acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn defended his pro-THAAD position, saying, “THAAD is a necessary self-defense measure for South Korea to protect itself from North Korean missile threats. Again we stress that we do not aim to target any third country.”
After his speech, public outrage targeted Hwang and the current administration:
중국의 보복에 대한 대책은? "소통 강화"라고 하십니다. 아, 소통이 그동안 부족해서 중국이 반발하는 거였구나… 무릎을 탁 치게 됩니다. https://t.co/YXRrThoz7y
— 언론 협동조합 프레시안 (@PRESSIAN_news) March 3, 2017
“And our counter measure for China’s retribution is? “Better communication”! So I guess the lack of communication is what has provoked China. Mind blown.”
Opposition parties including the Minjoo Party are issuing similar criticisms of Hwang Kyo-ahn’s response, while the Liberty Korea Party (the renamed Saenuri Party) and the Bareun Party stuck to their pro-THAAD stance. Some experts say this may only be the start: the retaliation could continue as long as the THAAD issue is unresolved between China and South Korea.
Meanwhile, Jeju Island, where Chinese visitors make up over 80% of its tourism, held an emergency meeting today with tourism organizations. Kim Young-jin, the head of the Jeju Tourism Association, said that Chinese tourists have already started cancelling their visits to Jeju. During his recent visit to China, he recalled a Chinese travel agent asking him cynically, “Why are you here?”
Cover Image: A vendor in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, wears an anti-THAAD badge and blue ribbon on her chest. Seongju was first designated as the site for THAAD deployment, but the Ministry of Defense changed the location to nearby Gimcheon after fierce opposition from its residents. (Jun Michael Park/Korea Exposé)
Seohoi Stephanie Park wrote this radar report.
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