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China tightens visa regulations on group tourists: industry officials

South Koreans who want to apply for a group tourist visa will have to submit their passports instead of a copy to travel agencies starting from next week under new regulations, industry officials said Friday. 

The consular office of the Chinese Embassy earlier in the day notified Korean travel agencies of the toughened rules for tourist groups composed of at least five people.

Industry officials said that the new requirement would complicate the visa application process, with about 90 percent of Korean travelers to China using the group visa program. 

"(Submission of applicants' passports) could raise the risk of missing passports, complicating the group visa review process," a local tour agency official said.

Earlier this month, the Chinese authority revoked the license of a local travel agency that has issued invitation letters for business visa applicants and required them to submit letters from Chinese companies.

The revision has caused inconvenience among Korean businesspeople who do not have partnering companies in China, according to industry officials.

The latest move raised speculation that it was a thinly veiled countermeasure against Seoul's recent decision to deploy an advanced U.S. anti-missile system despite Beijing's strong opposition.  (Yonhap)