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Korea attracts record number of foreign tourists

The number of foreign tourists to Korea reached a record 5 million in the first half of the year, thanks to a surge in visitors from Japan and China, a state tourism agency said on Wednesday.

The Korea Tourism Organization expected the number of foreign visitors to reach 5.33 million by the end of June, which is a 23.3 percent increase from the previous year.

Of them, the number of Japanese tourists jumped 30.2 percent and Chinese tourists increased 29.9 percent, accounting for 56 percent of the total foreign tourists.

“We expect the number of foreign visitors will reach 11 million at the end of this year due to the growing number of Japanese and Chinese tourists. And we will come up with more fun and interesting travel programs that can appeal to many visitors,” said the KTO CEO Lee Charm at a press meeting.

The growing popularity of K-pop and great shopping opportunities are the main reasons for the surge of foreign tourists, KTO said.

“We are seeing an increase in the number of tourists after we began approaching different age groups with different strategies such as shopping for women in their 30s to 40s and K-pop for young people in their 20s and teenagers,” said a KTO official.

The agency recently came up with a new marketing strategy, “Touch Korea Tour,” featuring K-pop idols who introduce various travel routes in Korea to foreign fans to attract more young people interested in K-pop and Korean culture.

The official also said promoting shopping opportunities and increasing the number of flights from China to Korea helped draw more Chinese tourists.

To further promote Korean tourism to Chinese people, KTO plans to utilize social networking platforms to get Chinese students in Korea to participate in the promotional activities.

The official said the growing number of conventions and surge in medical tourism also helped boost the tourism sector.

Several large conventions are set to be held in the coming years including the World Congress of the International Radiation Protection Association in 2020. Group visits by foreign firms are also expected in the second half of the year including Amway Thailand and a medical company from China.

Officials estimate that the country will host more than 150,000 visitors through medical tourism this year.

By Lee Woo-young (