Sea travel routes between South Korea and China will resume after being suspended for three years and seven months, according to the Korean shipping industry on Sunday.
Jiaodong Shipping said it will begin transporting passengers via car ferries on the Weihai-Pyeongtaek route starting Wednesday.
Starting Thursday, Yantai Ferry and Weidong Ferry will begin operation of car ferries to ferry passengers on the Yantai-Pyeongtaek and Weihai-Incheon routes, respectively. Weidong Ferry will also begin transportation of passengers via the Qingdao-Incheon route starting Friday.
This is to mark the first time that maritime transportation of passengers between China and South Korea have returned to operation since January 2020, when China's strict COVID-19 lockdown policies forbade Chinese passengers from traveling to and from foreign countries.
On March 20, Korea's Central Disease Control Headquarters announced its plan to normalize operation of Korea-China car ferries amid China's eased lockdown policies. However, the Korean shipping industry has so far failed to actually transport passengers for over four months.
"(Korean) regional governments gave the green light to allowing transportation of passengers via Korea-China car ferries, but because of the Chinese government's internal circumstances, such as various issues regarding strained diplomatic relations between Korea and China, actual transportation of passengers was difficult," said an official from the Incheon Port Authority.
However, ferry services between the two countries are to gradually resume, amid a recent increase in demand for Chinese travelers to go to Korea following eased lockdown policies and a curbed infection rate.
According to the Korea Tourism Organization's data, out of 961,000 foreign tourists who visited Korea in June, the number of tourists from China to Korea logged 168,000, second on the list. Japan ranked first with 197,000 visitors, while the number of tourists from the United States ranked third, with 121,000 visitors.
According to the Incheon Port Authority, plans are set to receive Chinese tourists for the first time in over three years.
"Currently, we are checking X-ray security check equipment and baggage transport facilities at the Incheon Port, in order to streamline the process of receiving tourists via Incheon Port after over three years of hiatus," the official from the Incheon Port Authority said.