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South Korean Tourists Flocking To Jeju Island Amid China Row

By March 11, 2017 at 12:00 am
The number of domestic tourists in Jeju climbed 13.5 percent to 218,709 for the first eight days of March, compared with 192,725 in the same period in 2016. (Photo : Getty Images)

South Korea's resort island of Jeju recorded a significant increase in the number of domestic tourists recently, according to industry watchers Friday, amid a plunge in Chinese tourists due to diplomatic tension between Seoul and Beijing over the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system on Korean soil.

Earlier this month, China ordered travel agencies to stop selling package tours to South Korea after the government finalized a deal with Lotte Group to set up a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery in Seongju, according to a report by the Korea Herald.

Beijing believes THAAD will threaten China's security, although Seoul and Washington insist it only aims to defend against North Korean provocations.

In a report by Yonhap News Agency, the number of South Korean tourists in Jeju climbed 13.5 percent to 218,709 for the first eight days of March, compared with 192,725 in the same period last year, according to sources.

Huge numbers of South Korean tourists used to visit China, but many of them are flying to Jeju or Southeast Asian nations because of the row between the two countries, according to industry sources.

The head of a tour agency said sales of his agency soared over 30 percent in February from the previous year as domestic tourists flock to Jeju, filling up the void left by Chinese tourists, the Yonhap report said.

In 2016, the number of international visitors who flew into South Korea stood at 17.2 million, almost 49 percent of which from China.

Visitors from China spent 15.7 trillion won while in the country in 2015, which accounts for 62.5 percent of all overseas tourism spending and amounting to about 0.5 percent of South Korea's GDP, according to a report by the LG Economic Research Institute.

Earlier this month, China's tourism administration issued a notice that Chinese tourists had been denied entry to Jeju island in recent months because of incomplete travel documents and advised their citizens to cautiously choose their travel destinations, according to a report by the Financial Times. 

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