Chinese tourism recovers to pre-Thaad levels

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Chinese tourism recovers to pre-Thaad levels

The number of Chinese visitors to Korea topped 400,000 in March for the first time since February last year, rebounding from a sharp fall after a diplomatic row between both countries soured economic relations, government data showed Tuesday.

The Ministry of Justice said the number of Chinese people visiting Korea rose 16.5 percent from a month earlier to 427,628 in March. Compared to the same figure a year ago, the growth was 13 percent.

The recovery of Chinese tourist figures to the 400,000 level was the first since relations between the two countries were strained over an agreement by the Korean government to install a U.S. missile shield known as Thaad that China believes threatens its security interests.

In protest, the Chinese government banned the country’s travel agencies from selling group tours to its citizens in April, dealing a blow to Korea’s tourism industry. That month, the number of Chinese visitors fell to 243,000, compared to 379,000 in March and 614,000 in February.

An improvement in relations between the two countries, along with the Winter Olympics held in Korea in February and the Lunar New Year holiday, is believed to have helped boost the number of Chinese visitors to the country.

In March, the number of overall foreign visitors to Korea soared 29.7 percent from the previous month to 1.39 million on the back of the sharp increase in Chinese travelers.

During the month, the number of foreigners residing in Korea reached 2.25 million, up 5.7 percent from a month earlier and up 10.9 percent from a year earlier.

China topped the list of nationalities with 45.7 percent, followed by Vietnam with 9.7 percent, Thailand with 7.4 percent, the United States with 6.7 percent and Uzbekistan with 2.9 percent.

The number of foreign students in Korea was 150,001, topping the 150,000 level for the first time.

Students from China, Vietnam, Mongolia and Uzbekistan made up 47.3 percent, 21.3 percent, 5.3 percent and 4 percent of the population.

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