SEOUL, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Mainland Chinese nationals are visiting South Korea in record numbers and are picking up the slack in domestic consumption, analysts at Samsung Securities said Thursday.
During the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday from Feb. 18 to 24, 126,000 Chinese traveled to South Korea on vacation, up 30 percent from the same holiday period in 2014, Yonhap reported.
The Samsung analysts said they expect 10 million Chinese tourists will travel to South Korea annually by 2018 and spend a total of $25 billion per year on fashion, electronics and other goods popular among Chinese.
South Korean music and media enjoy mainstream popularity in China. In 2014, Chinese film company Huace became the second-largest shareholder in leading Korean film distributor Next Entertainment World, purchasing a 15 percent stake for $52.7 million in 2014.
Chinese shoppers frequently visit Seoul's high-end department stores and have been known to spend tens of thousands of dollars on expensive watches, jewelry and accessories, South Korea's Herald Business reported.
Chinese tourists are also traveling to the South Korean resort island of Jeju in record numbers.
According to Jeju's tourism agency, nearly 290,000 Chinese tourists have entered Jeju since Jan. 1.
Chinese nationals are permitted to travel to Jeju visa-free.
South Korea is an alternative but popular destination for outbound Chinese who continue to travel to cities like Hong Kong but have been recently subject to scrutiny by increasingly irate Hong Kong residents.
The South China Morning Post has reported slogans like "Go back to China," and "Reclaim Hong Kong" were shouted at mainland Chinese shoppers before the Lunar New Year holidays. The protesters have asked their government to curb the numbers of tourists to the city.
Chinese nationals also compose the bulk of naturalized South Korean citizens, South Korea's justice ministry said Friday.
According to the most recent South Korean statistics, 71 percent of naturalized immigrants were from China, with many reporting an ethnic Korean background.