SEOUL, July 14 (Korea Bizwire) — The number of South Korean and foreign migrants fell to the lowest level in 18 years last year as the COVID-19 pandemic restricted cross-border movements by people, data showed Thursday.
The number of international migrants, referring to those who stay for more than 90 days here, declined 347,000, or 28.1 percent, on-year to 887,000, according to the data from Statistics Korea.
The data is calculated based on cross-border movements of both South Korean nationals and foreigners, excluding short-term visitors.
The 2021 tally was the lowest since 2003, when the corresponding figure came to 851,000. It also marked the sharpest on-year fall since the statistics agency began compiling related data in 2000.
The fall in people’s cross-border movements came as the pandemic has prompted more countries to impose entry restrictions, disrupting air travel.
The number of entrants fell 39 percent on-year to 410,000, while a total of 476,000 people left the country, down 15 percent from the previous year.
This resulted in a net outflow of international migrants last year, marking the first net outflow since 2005.
Last year, the number of incoming South Korean passport holders sharply declined in a shift from a 41.5 percent on-year rise in the previous year.
The number of Korean nationals who came from overseas countries fell 56.9 percent on-year to 190,000. The number of Koreans who left the country rose 7.2 percent to 14,000.
In 2020, incoming Koreans sharply rose as more students and businesspeople returned home due to spikes in virus cases in foreign countries.
The number of foreign migrants who visited South Korea fell for the third straight year in 2021 due to the pandemic.
The number of such incoming foreigners fell 5.4 percent on-year to 221,000, and that of foreigners who left the country sank 27.2 percent to 263,000.
This led to a net outflow of 43,000 foreigners last year, marking the second straight year that the number of outbound foreigners surpassed that of incoming foreign nationals.
In 2020, the country saw the largest-ever net outflow of 128,000 foreigners as South Korea temporarily suspended visa-free entry and visa waiver programs with countries imposing entry bans on Koreans due to the pandemic.