SEOUL, March 15 (Korea Bizwire) — The number of foreigners staying in South Korea fell nearly 4 percent in January this year, after topping a landmark 2.5 million the previous month, government data showed Sunday.
According to data released by the Ministry of Justice, 2,426,433 foreigners were residing in the country as of the first month of 2020, marking a decline of 3.9 percent from 2,524,656 last December.
The ministry also said the number of South Korean nationals leaving the country in January increased 7.4 percent on-month to 2.52 million, while the number of foreign arrivals here decreased 11.5 percent to 1.32 million in the same month.
Ministry officials speculate that the number of foreign stayers in the country may have further declined in February, as Seoul imposed an entry ban on foreigners traveling from China’s Hubei Province on Feb. 4 and the number of confirmed coronavirus cases began to spike in Daegu and the surrounding North Gyeongsang Province on Feb. 19.
South Korea was seen as close to becoming a multicultural society after its foreign population exceeded 2.5 million, or 4.9 percent of the nation’s total population of 51.64 million, at the end of last year.
The academic world usually classifies a nation as a multicultural society if its percentage of foreigners is in excess of 5 percent.
The nation’s foreign population exceeded 1 million in August 2007 and 2 million in June 2016.
By nationality, Chinese nationals, including 708,304 ethnic Koreans, formed the largest group of foreign nationals, accounting for 44.2 percent, or 1,073,554, of the foreign population, the ministry said.
Vietnamese came next with 226,157 residents, or 9.3 percent, followed by Thais (8.3 percent), Americans (6.3 percent), Uzbeks (3.1 percent), Russians (2.5 percent), Filipinos (2.4 percent), Mongolians (2.1 percent), Japanese (2 percent) and Cambodians (2 percent).
China accounted for 38.6 percent of all foreign arrivals here in January, followed by Japan (15.8 percent), Taiwan (8.6 percent), the United States (5.7 percent), Hong Kong (5 percent), Thailand (3 percent), Vietnam (2.6 percent), the Philippines (2.5 percent), Russia (2.2 percent) and Malaysia (2.1 percent), it said.