UPDATE : 2018.9.18 TUE 17:49
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Chinese visitors number drops for 7th straight month amid THAAD row

The number of Chinese tourists in South Korea declined 56 percent on-year in September, marking the seventh straight month of decrease following the diplomatic row over the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system here, government data showed Monday.

The tally of Chinese visitors came to 318,682 last month, according to the data by the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO).

The overall number of visitors from the neighboring country in the January-September period stood at 3.19 million, a 49.6 percent drop from 6.33 million in the same nine months of 2016, it showed.

Dragged down by weak inbound traffic from China, the total number of foreigners who visited South Korea last month fell 29.2 percent on-year to 1.07 million from 1.52 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 South 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 South 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 61.2 percent on-year drop reported in August.

South Korea also saw the number of visitors from the Philippines and Indonesia plunge 37 percent and 33.6 percent on-year in September, respectively, according to the data.

But tourists from Japan moved up 5.4 percent on-year to reach 219,968 last month, with those from Hong Kong and Taiwan also rising 6.7 percent and 0.7 percent over the cited period, respectively, they showed.

The number of outbound South Korean nationals came to 2.23 million in September, up 17.4 percent from 1.9 million a year earlier, the latest findings showed.

Hwi Won  edt@koreapost.com

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