China-bound travelers plunge amid prolonged THAAD spat

SEOUL-- The number of South Koreans visiting China continued to shrank last month, industry data showed Thursday, as the ongoing diplomatic row between the two countries shows no sign of being eased.

Locals going to China via Hana Tour, the country's No. 1 travel agency, in July were tallied around 32,000, down a sharp 46.5 percent from the same period last year.

Bookings for Japan, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, meanwhile, surged 46.4 percent, 16 percent and 21.5 percent, respectively, according to the company. Japan accounted for nearly half, or 46.2 percent, of all travel arranged through the agency during the period.

Mode Tour, another key player, said the number of customers who headed to China shrank 34.1 percent in July to 18,539 vis-a-vis 28,142 a year earlier.

China has been a popular destination for locals opting for a short and inexpensive outbound holiday getaway. But such demand has been sapped on growing safety concerns over anti-Korea sentiment spreading over the mainland following Seoul's decision to deploy a U.S. missile defense system here.

Since early this year, South Korean companies in China have faced boycotts and regulatory inspections as Beijing ratcheted up pressure on Seoul to ditch its plan to host the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD).

Meanwhile, the number of Chinese tourists in South Korea more than halved in June, marking a decline for four straight months amid the extended row.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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