Exits from Korea surge in 2019, but coronavirus skews numbers
A record number people left Korea last year, while those entering the country to stay fell.
In 2019, 717,000 exited the country, an 8.8 percent increase and an all-time high. Those entering Korea totaled 749,000, down 8.4 percent.
The net increase was 32,000, down from a record 124,000 gain in 2018.
In terms of foreigners, 426,000 left, a 16.6 percent increase. Those entering totaled 438,000, an 11.5 percent increase.
Statistics Korea used 90 days as the cutoff point for including people in the study, so those who came to the country for tourism or short-term work or business trips were excluded.
It categorizes those leaving the country and not reentering within 90 days as having left, so those that departed in December and haven't returned are included in the statistics.
The statistics agency said the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in 2018 was in part to blame for the decline. It said a large number of people who entered the country for the games illegally stayed afterwards. The Justice Ministry cracked down on over-stayers, resulting in a surge in forced exits.
In 2018, the number of illegal aliens totaled 355,000, which is a 41 percent increase compared to the 251,000 in 2017. That’s roughly 15 percent of all foreigners staying more than 90 days in Korea.
“In 2018, there were a large number of foreigners entering the country for short visits but staying longer than legally permitted,” said Kim Jin, head of Statistics Korea’s Vital Statistics department. In 2019, "exiting foreigners increased as a result of the crackdown on illegal aliens."
The coronavirus was also cited as a reason for the large number of people exiting.
“There has been an increase in cases where Chinese students that left the country in December were unable to return to Korea because of the spread of coronavirus in China,” said Kim.
In 2018, 19,000 Chinese citizens left on a net basis. Last year, the figure rose to 43,000.
Last year, 34.5 percent of foreigners that entered Korea were for short-term visits.
Those that came to the country for work were 26 percent of the total, while those entering for training were 14.9 percent.
The number of people coming to the country for the purpose of marriage or naturalization rose 7.7 percent to 48,000. It was the only category where an increase was reported.
People from China topped the list, both in terms of entry and exit.
Last year, 139,000 people with Chinese passports entered the country, followed by Vietnamese arrivals, at 61,000, and those from Thailand, at 53,000.
The number of people from China entering the country dropped by 31,000. The number of people coming from Thailand fell 27,000.
Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai passport holders accounted for the majority of foreigners entering the country, at 57.8 percent, while the same group also accounted for 61.1 percent of those exiting Korea.
Last year, 181,000 Chinese exited Korea, while 44,000 Thais and 35,000 Vietnamese left. The number of Chinese leaving was up 31,000 on year.
For Chinese, the biggest reason for coming to Korea was work, at 25.9 percent of the total. Of the Vietnamese arrivals, 35.9 percent came for short-term visits, while 88 percent of Thais came for that reason.
BY LEE HO-JEONG [email@example.com]