If you thought spending Golden Week in China was hell, try spending it in cramped rooms inside an airport.
Over the National Day holiday, more than 100 Chinese tourists were denied entry to the popular South Korean resort island of Jeju. Tourists claim that after being denied entry they were told by customs officers that they could either purchase new tickets back home or wait for their return flights inside the airport.
At the airport, tourists told Chinese media that they were restricted to only certain rooms, forced to sleep in a room bare of anything except for electrical outlets to charge their phones (mandated by Geneva Convention) — no beds, pillows, sheets, sleeping bags or mattresses.
As for food, tourists say that that they had to pay 50 yuan for set meals of bland airport food.
Some travelers lived like that for more than five days while waiting for their flight home.
Pictures and videos of the Chinese tourists’ basic living conditions have gone viral on Chinese social media, provoking outrage from netizens and calls for Chinese tourists to boycott the island.
This whole thing comes as quite the surprise considering that Jeju Island has a well known 30-day, visa-free policy for Chinese tourists, who make up the vast majority of the island’s visitors. Implemented in 2008, the controversial policy has turned the island into a Chinese tourism gold mine, but it has also led to an increase in crime.
One of the stranded Chinese tourist surnamed Zhang told reporters that he had been denied entry to Jeju because he had not printed out a confirmation from the hotel after booking a five-day tour of the island for himself and his wife online. The report fails to add why Zhang couldn’t have simply printed out the tickets at the airport.
It’s also not clear if the island’s authorities are cracking down on Chinese tourists due to a pair of explosive incidents last month and intense pressure from the public. In early September, a group of rowdy Chinese tourists beat up a restaurant owner on the island after she told them not to bring in drinks from outside. One week later, a Chinese tourist stabbed a Korean woman to death as she was praying at a local chapel because she reminded him of his ex-wife.
Following these unfortunate incidents, over 11,000 locals signed a petition calling for an end to visa-free entry for Chinese tourists; however, Governor Won Hee-ryong has dismissed the possibility that the program would be canceled.
According to Sina, 1,000 visitors every month are denied entry to Jeju, so it’s unclear if anything has really changed.
During the holiday, the Chinese consulate-general in Jeju worked with South Korean authorities to try and sort out the problems. Still, it seems that many tourists had no choice but to spent their vacation stuck inside an airport. The consulate-general has warned Chinese travelers that they must provide valid passports, itinerary and accommodation information in order to enter the island.
[Images via Sina]