Incheon International Airport`s Terminal 1 stands vastly empty earlier this month amid ongoing fears of the coronavirus outbreak. (Yonhap)
The number of Vietnamese entering South Korea surged last month, despite a sharp fall in the total number of foreign arrivals.
According to data from the Ministry of Justice on Monday, the number of foreigners entering South Korea dropped 62 percent from a month earlier to 34,544 people in April. From a year earlier, the figure was 97.2 percent lower.
Of the total, Vietnamese nationals accounted for 10,327, US nationals 6,830 and Chinese nationals 4,685. It was the first time that Vietnamese travelers made up the greatest proportion of new arrivals in a single month. It was also the first time in recent years that Chinese travelers were not in the majority. Even in 2017, when a diplomatic rift flared up between Seoul and Beijing, Chinese people were still in the No. 1 position.
Vietnam was the only country that sent more visitors to Korea in April than March, with a 66 percent surge.
The number of Japanese visitors fell by the highest margin, 94.3 percent, followed by Thailand (83.8 percent), Malaysia (82.7 percent), Russia (77.3 percent), the Philippines (74.8 percent) and China (73.9 percent).
A ministry official said no specific reason for the greater proportion of Vietnamese travelers had been identified, but suggested that it may have had to do with the increased number of chartered flights between the two countries. Travel bans and tight border controls were cited as key reasons for the overall drop in foreign arrivals.
Also in April, 31,593 Koreans left the country. The figure was down 78.2 percent from a month earlier and down 98.6 percent from the same month last year.
At the same time, the number of foreign nationals residing in Korea fell for four months straight to 2.18 million in April, down 1.2 percent from a month earlier. The number of unregistered migrants residing in Korea illegally rose 1 percent from March to 390,814 in April.
By Ko Jun-tae (firstname.lastname@example.org