Some 7.43 million South Koreans went abroad in the first three months, up 14.1 percent from the same period last year, setting a new record, according to the Bank of Korea. The period coincided with winter vacation and the extra-long lunar New Year holiday that combined with two weekends and a bridge off-day.
The travelers spent US$8.5 billion, $1.12 billion more than in the first quarter of last year. The latest number beats the previous record of $8.21 billion in the fourth quarter last year. A monthly record was set in January with $3.24 billion in spending.
A strong local currency apparently encouraged overseas trips, especially to relatively close destinations such as Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The travel sector deficit in the first quarter increased from $1.13 billion in the same quarter last year to $4.87 billion this year. The level or deficit this year, however, is $50 million less than the previous quarter, marking the first contraction in five quarters.
Spending by foreign visitors to Korea contributed to the contraction. They spent $3.63 billion while in the country in the first quarter this year, an increase of $340 million from the previous quarter. In March, the incoming visitors spent $1.4 billion, the biggest amount since December 2016.
A total of 3.36 million foreigners came to Korea in the first three months, down 9.1 percent from the same period the previous year. The number of Chinese travelers dropped 30.5 percent, but people from Japan increased 2.5 percent. (Yonhap)