SEOUL—Five males and four females from a 17-member Chinese tour group defected to South Korea recently, according to the South Korean News Agency Yonhap.
The tour group had left Beijing on Feb. 27 by the KE-880 flight, arriving the same day in Jeju, Korea. On March 2, when they were scheduled to leave Jeju Island, the tour guide found the hotel rooms of the nine empty. Their cell phones rang unanswered.
When they failed to show up at the airport, the guide reported the incident to the Jeju Exit and Entry Administration Department, who in turn discovered that the hotel’s closed-circuit cameras recorded them leave the hotel between 9:30 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.
Usually, the tour guide leading a Chinese tour group on an overseas trip collects the passports from the group members upon arrival in the foreign country. Since they didn’t request the passports back from the tour guide, it is speculated that they intend to work illegally on Jeju Island. The police are intensifying the search for them at different airports, docks, and hotels.
This is the first publicized incident of Chinese tourists’ defection to Korea this year. Since Korea implemented the policy that Chinese can enter Jeju Island without a visa, defection cases have been frequent. Between January and September 2010, a total of 678 Chinese tourists left their tour groups illegally in Jeju, according to the local Chinese consulate.
On July 17, 2008, 21 tourists from Shanghai disappeared, five of whom were later arrested. On Oct. 17, 2010, 44 Chinese tourists arrived in Jeju Island by a luxury cruise; 33 of them escaped illegally. In the search that ensued, 12 were caught.
The Jeju Exit and Entry Administration Department told The Epoch Times that the majority of the Chinese who enter Jeju Island are visitors, but the relatively small portion that defect may lead the Korean government to impose restrictions on the system. Chinese tours to Korea could hence be affected.
Chinese tourists are required to pay around 50,000 yuan (US$7,624) as a kind of insurance to tour companies for a trip to Korea. Individual travelers find themselves facing even more taxing demands.
The Chinese Communist Party has this among the regulations of its Control of the Exit and Entry of Citizens: “Those who leave the tour group will be re-educated in labor camps, forced to do labor work or face administrative detention.”
Most such immigrants find themselves in labor work—the so called 3D: Difficult, Dirty, Dangerous—jobs that the Koreans seem inclined to leave to the illegal immigrants.
They work at construction sites, as waitresses at restaurants, laborers at public baths, and as workers at labor-intensive processing factories. Reports say that they form a significant portion of worksite accident victims.
Read the original Chinese article.