World Poker Tour Cancels Korea National Event Because of Air Strikes

March 15th, 2017 | by Kaycee James

The World Poker Tour’s (WPT) planned trip to South Korea has been cancelled at the last minute due to airline strikes and growing political unrest in the area.

YiGuang Xu WPT National Korea.

Mounting political tensions between China and South Korea mean no one will take YiGuang Xu’s WPT National Korea Crown in 2017. (Image:

Cancelling a tournament just days before the scheduled start date is certainly unusual, but a social media post by the WPT suggested that it was in the best interests of the players to make the move.

Over the last few months, tensions between China and South Korea have been escalating over a US nuclear missile defense system.

In a move designed to intercept potential threats coming from North Korea, the US has deployed a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea. The defense system basically targets missiles as they’re heading towards the ground in a bid to prevent any casualties.

Missile Issues Bring Down Planes in South Korea

But despite the seemingly positive intentions of the US defense system, China isn’t happy about it and, moreover, it’s not happy with South Korea’s participation in the project. This has led to numerous political debates between the two countries and, more recently, tit-for-tat sanctions on various business operations.

With some believing that THAAD could help the US gather surveillance data on China, the country has reportedly blocked a number of businesses that trade with companies in South Korea. Although these reports have been denied by the Chinese government, the blackout of certain airlines has caused a very real problem for both countries.

Following Spring Airlines Co’s cancellation of flights from Ningbo, China, to Jeju Island, South Korea, a spate of similar strikes have taken place. As well as grounded flights, Bloomberg reports have suggested that Chinese government officials have verbally told travel agencies to stop selling holidays to South Korea.

In an act of retaliation, South Korean airlines such as Eastar Jet have stopped flights to various parts of China. As a result of the increasing tensions and impending travel chaos, the WPT has been forced to abandon its latest National Tour stop.

WPT Hit by Political Unrest

“Due to factors beyond our control, the World Poker Tour (WPT) today announced the cancellation of WPT National Korea scheduled for March 17-21, 2017, at Paradise Casino at Jeju Grand.

As you may be aware, several major airline carriers have suspended air travel in the region. In the best interest of our players, the event will no longer be taking place.

The WPT regrets any inconvenience this may cause and appreciates your understanding. If you have any questions regarding this cancellation notice, please email [email protected]” read an official Facebook post made by the WPT on 13 March at 20:45.

Although the safety of players isn’t necessarily the main concern, the logistics of hosting an even with an ever-decreasing number of in-bound flights would be too much to handle. Although some international players may have been able to attend, the number of runners would have been significantly down on 2016’s event due to the lack of Chinese nationals taking part.

When YiGuang Xu won the last WPT National Korea main event back in May 2016, he was one of seven Chinese players at the final table. On top of this, only six of the 20 players who made the money were not from China.

Because of this fact, the WPT will now dust itself off and head to South Africa’s Emperors Palace for its next National event between April 7th and April 9th.


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