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How fast-track entry becomes highlight of China-ROK cooperation amid COVID-19 Release date: 2020-09-14    Source:Xinhua

It has been more than four months since China and South Korea agreed to establish a fast-track entry system that effectively shortens quarantine period for essential personnel on urgent visits while the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging.

The "fast lane" that opened on May 1 and has expedited nearly 10,000 visits between the two countries, now becomes a highlight of their joint efforts to resume bilateral exchanges amid COVID-19 and sets an example of cooperation for the world in the battle against the pandemic.



As of now, the number of Chinese provinces and cities enrolled in the fast-track system has grown from 10 at the very beginning to 19, and both countries are working hard to allow it to benefit more regions and corporations.

By mid-August, the number of passengers traveling via the fast-track system between China and South Korea surpassed 8,000, according to official statistics given by the Chinese embassy in South Korea.

Not a single case of infection was attributed to the travelers involved in the scheme.

Xing Haiming, Chinese ambassador to South Korea, told Xinhua that under the "fast-track" regulations, the amount of time for going through immigration procedure and quarantine is substantially shortened for those on urgent visits in commerce, production and technological services after they get necessary approval and coronavirus tests.

"This fast-track has improved (cross-border traffic) efficiency and offered strong support for bilateral trade and economic exchanges and a timely resumption of work and production in both countries," Xing noted.

On May 10, over 200 South Korean engineers from Samsung, the country's multinational giant, arrived in Tianjin of China on a chartered plane from Incheon of South Korea, becoming the first batch of South Korean nationals that traveled to China under the fast-track system. Now Samsung has arranged more than 10 chartered flights to send approximately 4,000 employees to China.

China Samsung told Xinhua that the company is undergoing a business transformation and upgrading and this year is the most crucial for developing several key projects.

The launch of the fast-track system demonstrates enormous support from governments at all levels in China for businesses, and sending employees back to China via the fast-track also shows Samsung's confidence and determination to secure production, China Samsung said.



South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee, who is running for director-general of the World Trade Organization, told Xinhua in a recent interview that the fast-track entry between South Korea and China has enabled business people to visit the other country in a very safe and swift manner against the backdrop of the current uncertain trade environment.

"The COVID-19 pandemic poses a serious threat to bilateral cooperation among countries; in general, limiting the flow of goods, services and people across the borders..." she said. "It (The fast-track entry) has played a key role in maintaining a firm bilateral economic cooperation and also at the same time minimizing the negative economic impacts by the COVID-19 pandemic."

Chinese Ambassador Xing also pointed out that the two heads of state have had two telephone conversations since the COVID-19 outbreak to lead both countries in their joint efforts to fight the infectious disease.

"The fast-track entry, established following the spirit of mutual trust and a realistic approach, is a pioneering move to implement the consensus reached by the two heads of state and to deepen anti-epidemic cooperation," Xing said. "It is now one of the highlights of China-South Korea cooperation to fight coronavirus."

Xing said there are two major reasons for building the fast-track system. First, both countries have brought the epidemic under effective control in a relatively short period of time, which creates favorable conditions for setting up the system. Second, businesses in both countries have strong needs for the normalization of manufacturing and production.

Far more importantly, taking the fast-track initiative not only benefits the two close neighbors, but sets an example of collaboration for the rest of the world and also injects new confidence into the global economy that is still grappling with the pandemic.

Jeon Byeong-seo, director at South Korea's Institute of Chinese Economic and Financial Research, told Xinhua that this system has "a demonstration effect" for other countries.

The fast-track entry helps China and South Korea coordinate efforts of epidemic control and economic development, and it also contributes to industrial and supply chain stability, Xing added.



To offset the COVID-19 impact on bilateral trade, China and South Korea have made additional efforts to explore new ways of economic cooperation.

Local governments and companies in both countries have launched online campaigns to invite investment and signed online contracts to continue trade and economic exchanges.

On Aug. 1, the 24th session of the China-ROK Joint Trade and Economic Commission was held in Qingdao, China. This marked the first face-to-face meeting of trade officials between China and another country since the outbreak of the pandemic.

The industrial chain, supply chain and value chain in China and South Korea are highly compatible, which brings unlimited potentials to the mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation, Xing said.

"In the immediate and short-term, both countries should contribute to quick, prompt economic recovery of the global community from the COVID-19," Yoo told Xinhua, adding that she "sees good potential for further cooperation" between the two countries.

"The successful operation of the fast-track system, along with other innovative attempts to advance practical cooperation between the two countries, has testified that stable bilateral relations serve the interests of both countries and peoples and reflect the common expectation of both sides," Xing said.

"The China-South Korea ties ahead are filled with hope," he added.