Foreign-born TV celebrities -- (from left) Alberto Mondi, Robin Deiana and Daniel Lindemann -- listen to a local tour conductor for their activities as honorary ambassadors for Jeong-dong, Seoul, at a historic building near the palace Deoksugung in April 2018. (Seoul’s Jung-gu Office)
SEJONG -- The number of foreigners staying in South Korea, both short-term and long-term inbound visitors, declined by 388,967 in only six months in the wake of the novel coronavirus.
According to the Korea Immigration Service, the number of foreigners staying in the nation stood at 2.13 million as of June. This marked a 15.4 percent drop compared to six months earlier in December 2019, when the figure reached 2.52 million.
By nationality, Japanese posted the steepest slide, as they posted minus 59,291 (or minus 68.7 percent) from 86,196 as of December 2019 to 26,905 as of June 2020. The KIS publicized 23 major nationalities with regard to their visit to Korea.
In March, when the virus was most actively spreading, Korea enhanced restrictions on the entry of Japanese visitors as a countermeasure against Japan’s prior action against Korean visitors. Though neither of the two countries issued a full-fledged ban, the bilateral restrictions are estimated to have been based on the lingering diplomatic conflict.
“Alongside the COVID-19 situation, the feud between Seoul and Tokyo (since last year) seemingly has fanned the drastic decrease in the number of Japanese inbound visitors,” said an analyst in Seoul.
Those from Malaysia ranked second with a decline by 58.2 percent from 14,790 to 6,178 over the six-month period, followed by those from Taiwan by 53.1 percent from 42,767 to 20,037.
Australia, home to many native English teachers residing in Korea, posted minus 7,007 (or minus 46 percent) from 15,222 to 8,215, which was the fourth steepest fall by nationality.
(Graphic by Kim Sun-young/The Korea Herald)
Among others, the number of Chinese staying in Korea recorded a decline by 14.3 percent to 943,540 as of June, those from the US by 6.6 percent to 146,608 and those from Canada by 15.3 percent to 22,673.
All of the 23 major countries specified by the immigration service -- including Russia, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia -- reported a decline in the number of visitors to Korea, which has not issued a travel ban on inbound travelers worldwide.
The fall in the number of foreigners staying in the nation was especially marked among short-term visitors -- those with permission for stays of 90 days or less in Korea -- as the figure posted minus 42.5 percent from 792,853 to 455,235.
In contrast, the figure for long-term visitors (91 days or longer) was just minus 2.9 percent, from 1.73 million to 1.68 million.
Though long-term visitors fell simultaneously, past data suggested that the tally could rapidly bounce back when the globe sees a certain level of normalization from the pandemic.
After topping the 1 million mark in 2010 for the first time, the number of long-term inbound visitors has continued to increase to exceed 1.5 million in 2016 and approach 1.8 million in 2019.
The trend for short-term visitors was the same -- from less than 260,000 in 2010 to approaching 800,000 in 2019.
Their average age remained under 40, while that of South Koreans has reached 43 years.
Those in their 30s topped visiting age groups with 27.5 percent (590,531 among 2.13 million for both short- and long-term) as of June.
Those in their 20s made up 22.7 percent, followed by those in their 40s with 16.4 percent and those in their 50s at 14.7 percent. Those aged 60 or over and those under 20 accounted for 12.3 percent and 6.5 percent, respectively.
By Kim Yon-se (email@example.com)