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Diplomats scramble to bolster safety of Koreans in China

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Published : 2017-03-20 16:06
Updated : 2017-03-20 16:06

South Korean diplomats are taking steps to better protect compatriot residents in China from a wave of anti-Korean sentiment among Chinese over the deployment of a US missile defense system.

The South Korean Embassy in Beijing has recently opened a special online communication line to send out safety warnings to South Korean residents across China, sources said Monday.

A demonstration against the deployment of a US missile defense system in South Korea in China's Sichuan Province on March 11. (Yonhap)

The latest move came as Chinese anger over the installation of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery in South Korea has escalated into various forms of violence against Korean people and products.

The sources said the opening of a new online communication channel is aimed at spreading safety-related information to South Koreans as quickly and efficiently as possible.

On top of its open-to-the-public account with WeChat, China's popular instant messaging application, the Korean embassy's consular department recently created a separate WeChat account, Korea0404, which is only accessible to South Korean nationals, the sources said.

With an aim to correct rumors or misunderstandings over the THAAD issue, the new account will focus on disseminating safety information among South Korean residents or travelers in China, according to the sources.

The consular action was taken following a series of acts of sabotage on South Koreans and South Korean brands that were reported in China over the deployment issue.

Earlier in the month, South Korea and the United States said they brought two interceptor-missile launchers and other elements of the anti-missile system, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery, into the U.S. base in Osan, south of Seoul, as the allies pushed ahead with the deployment plan vehemently resisted by Beijing.

As the deployment quickened, China has carried out a string of severe economic retaliations on South Korean products and entertainers, including a ban on sales of tour packages to South Korea in early March.

The anti-Korean sentiment has recently shown signs of spilling over into people-to-people relations between the countries, with reports of a drug store, a pub and other stores putting up signs that say no South Koreans. 

Amid accelerating safety jitters, the Korean Embassy in China has issued an advisory, advising South Koreans in China to shun crowded areas, local rally sites and engaging in unnecessary arguments with Chinese.

"The THAAD feud triggered rumors and other kinds of anti-Korean sentiment in China to the dismay of Korean residents, resulting in the communication line dedicated to South Koreans staying in China," another source said. "It is unusual for the Korean Embassy to issue an emergency safety alert."

The South Korean Consulate General in Shanghai is also considering an opening of a similar WeChat account after the consulate asked regional governments to conduct safety patrols around Korean towns in southern Chinese cities, sources said. (Yonhap)