SEOUL Jan 2 South Korea's government and
airline companies will meet on Tuesday to discuss China's
rejection of applications by Korean carriers to add charter
flights between the two countries for early this year, a
government official said on Monday.
South Korean Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho said on Sunday he
would look into whether China's decision, which came ahead of a
traditional surge in Lunar New Year travel, was "related to" the
planned deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system in South Korea.
Yoo told reporters there were "several suspected cases of
non-tariff barriers" following last year's decision to deploy
the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system and
South Korea needed to determine China's "real intention".
China's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a
request for comment on a holiday, while China's Civil Aviation
Administration was not immediately reachable.
China worries that the THAAD's powerful radar can penetrate
its territory and has objected to the deployment, which South
Korea and the United States say is aimed solely at countering
any threat from North Korea.
South Korean carriers Asiana Airlines, Jeju Air
and Jin Air, an affiliate of Korean Air Lines
, said their applications for charter flights to
China were rejected for January and February, with no reason
"It is regrettable," a spokesman at Jeju Air said.
The companies already operate scheduled flights to China but
wanted to add charter flights at busy times.
The transport ministry had sent a letter to China's ministry
seeking cooperation on the proposed flights and it would also
meet the companies to ponder a next step, a ministry official
"We will hold a closed-meeting with major airline affiliates
tomorrow morning to discuss measures," the ministry official
said, without elaborating on what type of measures might be
China Eastern Airlines and China Southern
Airlines had asked South Korea to hold off on
approving their applications to add charter flights in January,
citing "a situation in China", said the official who is not
authorised to speak to media and declined to be identified.
A China Eastern press official denied that it had asked
South Korea to hold off approving applications to add charter
flights. A China Southern media official was not immediately
The Korea Tourism Organization said charter flights
typically accounted for 4 to 5 percent of available seats
between the two countries.
"Travellers can switch over to regular scheduled flights, so
we do not expect huge losses," said Han Hwa-joon, China team
Shares in South Korean cosmetics-related companies and
airlines dropped on news reports of the charter denials. Korean
cosmetics are a hot-selling item for visitors from China, South
Korea's biggest source of tourists.
Shares in cosmetics maker Amorepacific Corp were
down 5 percent on Monday, their biggest daily percentage loss
since Oct. 25 and Korean Air Lines Co Ltd shares
fell 2.2 percent to their lowest level since July 14.
(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Additional reporting Yun Hwan Chae
and Dahee Kim in SEOUL and Chen Aizhu in BEIJING; Editing by
Tony Munroe, Robert Birsel)