South Korea's current account deficit in air transport reached a record high in the first six months of the year due mainly to a sharp drop in Chinese tourists stemming from the ongoing diplomatic spat over the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system, central bank data showed Sunday.
The deficit in the air transport index reached US$248.6 million in the January-June period, backtracking from a surplus of $216.7 million tallied six months earlier, according to the data by the Bank of Korea (BOK).
It marked the largest half-year red figure since 2006, when the BOK started to compile such data.
The air transport index covers people and goods crossing borders on flights, along with air postal services and services provided in airports.
South Korean air carriers earned a combined $1.69 billion from foreign passengers over the six-month period, down 7.3 percent from a year earlier.
The deficit is attributable to a decrease in Chinese tourists as the Beijing government restricted package tours in March in apparent retaliation for the deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery in South Korea.
Separate data showed that the number of Chinese people visiting South Korea plunged 41 percent on-year to 2.25 million in the first half. (Yonhap)