SEOUL, July 12 (UPI) -- More than half of foreigners who visited South Korea last year came from China, Thailand and Vietnam.
Among some 453,000 foreign visitors to South Korea last year, Chinese were the largest group with 34 percent, followed by Thai (15 percent) and Vietnamese (10 percent), according to a figure released by Statistics Korea on Thursday.
Most Chinese visitors came for work (29 percent) and for a short-term stay (25 percent). Some 29 percent of Vietnamese came for study, a 7 percent increase from 2016.
The number of foreign visitors entering on visa-free programs increased by 159 percent to 88,000 last year from 2016, the largest surge since 2000. Those who came for study increased by 10 percent. Workers on employment visas decreased by 5.5 percent compared to last year, especially in the category of low-skilled jobs (15 percent).
The fall in the number of foreign workers to the country was a result of the Labor Ministry's decision to reduce migrant workers' quota last year, a statistics official told Yonhap.
Meanwhile, the number of South Koreans leaving the country decreased by 2.8 percent to 608,000 last year. The figure shows that the number of South Koreans going overseas decreased at all age groups under 60.
The fall in the number of South Koreans leaving the country, especially under 30, is seen as an effect of the country's prolonged low birth rates, a statistics official told Yonhap. The country has also seen a gradual decrease in the number of young students leaving to study overseas since 2007.