Thousands of Chinese tourists on a multi-island tour refused to disembark their cruise ship when they reached their South Korean stop.
The reason? All 3,400 passengers decided to collectively protest the installation of the THAAD missile defense system by not setting foot on the South Korean resort island of Jeju, Shanghaiist reports.
For Seoul, the U.S.-backed THAAD missile defense system is a necessary tool to help defend itself from a missile threat from Pyongyang. Beijing, for its part, sees the structure as a threat to its own national security.
Tour guides with 80 tour buses were left waiting on the island that was previously a favorite Chinese tourist destination. South Korean customs officials and even the Costa Serena cruise ship’s captain were surprised by the action.
For four hours, the Chinese tourists remained idle before the ship went on to their next destination: Tianjin.
The travelers were reportedly on a reward trip organized by a Chinese company. The ship had earlier departed from Fukuoka in Japan before arriving at Jeju.
Netizens applauded the supposedly “patriotic gesture.” A widely thumbed up Weibo comment read: “When the Chinese people stand up together, it is a formidable sight.”
Following the incident, the Italian cruise ship firm also canceled two other Jeju stops scheduled in the middle of March to the end of June.
So far, there have been 26 canceled visits in total, which is equivalent to 120,000 Chinese tourists not traveling to the island this year.
Other cruise ship companies have also followed suit, with Royal Caribbean Cruises and Carnival Corp’s Costa Cruises and Princess Cruises cutting their stops at all South Korean ports.
The majority of flights that have been scheduled to make landings on Jeju have also been scrapped.
Earlier this month, no less than the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) gave orders to travel agencies in Beijing to “suspend sales of all travel packages, both online and offline, to South Korea.”
While the effects of such travel boycott/ban will definitely hurt the region’s tourism industry, Jeju residents who have long yearned for a quieter season will have theirs this year.