Tourists from China down 61% in Aug.

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Tourists from China down 61% in Aug.

The number of Chinese tourists in Korea declined 61.2 percent on-year in August, marking the sixth straight month of decrease following the diplomatic row over the deployment of a U.S. antimissile system here, government data showed Friday.

The tally of Chinese visitors came to 339,388 last month, down from 873,771 the previous year, according to the data from the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO).

The overall number of visitors from the neighboring country in the January-August period stood at 2.87 million, a 48.8 percent drop from 5.6 million in the same eight months of 2016, it showed.

Dragged down by such weak inbound traffic, the total number of foreigners who visited Korea last month fell 33.7 percent on-year to 1.1 million from 1.6 million, according to the data.

Chinese visitors accounted for nearly half of the 17 million foreigners that visited the country last year.

The sharp decline in Chinese tourists has been widely expected as Beijing has banned its travel agencies from selling package tours bound to Korea since mid-March in an apparent retaliation over Seoul’s deployment of a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system.

The ban, which especially has wrecked havoc on Korea’s retail and duty-free companies, has yet to be lifted.

The KTO said that while numbers have fallen, the rate of decline in Chinese visitors slowed last month from the 69.3 percent on-year drop reported in July.

Korea also saw the number of visitors from the Philippines and Indonesia plunge 38.1 percent and 44.5 percent on-year in August, respectively, according to the data.

The drop from the two countries was mainly attributed to difficulty in securing flight tickets to Korea amid a sharp increase in demand for flights to the two Southeast Asian countries here during the peak holiday season, the KTO said.

The number of outbound Korean nationals came to 2.38 million in August, up 15.6 percent from 2.06 million a year earlier, the data showed.

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