SEOUL, Nov. 20 (Korea Bizwire) — The trade deficit in South Korea’s tourism industry rose to a record high level in the first eight months of this year, due largely to a drop in Chinese visitors following a diplomatic row between Seoul and Beijing over a U.S. missile defense system here, data showed Monday.
The country’s tourism-related income came to US$8.85 billion in the January-August period, down 23.6 percent from the same months a year earlier, according to the data provided by the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO).
South Koreans, meanwhile, spent $17.5 billion abroad during the cited period, up 14.7 percent from the previous year, the data showed.
The tourism deficit came to $8.67 billion during the eight months, and some industry watchers forecast the figure to exceed $13 billion at the end of this year.
The imbalance in the tourism account is largely attributable to the Chinese government’s ban on selling Korea-bound tour programs, which took effect in mid-March, among a string of other retaliatory measures put forward by Beijing against Korean companies and their goods over Seoul’s deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.
The number of foreigners who visited South Korea from January to August came to 8.86 million, down 22.8 percent on-year, amid a sharp decline in the number of Chinese visitors.
In September, the number of Chinese tourists in the country more than halved, marking a decrease for the seventh-consecutive month. Chinese accounted for nearly half of the 17 million foreigners that visited the country last year.
The tally for outbound travelers in South Korea, meanwhile, rose 17.7 percent to 17.39 million in the first eight months of this year, according to the data.