Number of foreign visitors to S. Korea tops 14 mln this year

December 29, 2014
Tour guides hand out promotional leaflets to Chinese tourists at Myeong-dong in central Seoul in this file photo taken on Feb. 1. (Korea Times)

Tour guides hand out promotional leaflets to Chinese tourists at Myeong-dong in central Seoul in this file photo taken on Feb. 1. (Korea Times)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — The number of foreign tourists to South Korea surpassed 14 million for the first time this year, helped by a sharp rise in Chinese travelers, the state-run Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) said Monday.

South Korea has seen a gradual increase in inbound travelers over the past decade thanks to the popularity of Korean pop culture, known as hallyu. The new record comes after foreign travelers to the nation surpassed 12 million last year, up from 5 million in 2000 and 10 million in 2012.

By nationality, Chinese were the No. 1 tourist group with 5.71 million, a 40.9 percent hike from a year earlier. If the current trend continues, the total number of visitors from China is expected to top 6 million by the end of the year, the KTO said.

Japanese were the second-largest tourist group with 2.11 million, trailed by Americans with 720,000.

This year, South Korea drew more visitors from Hong Kong, Thailand and Russia compared to a year ago.

The combined income from the tourism industry is estimated to reach $17.8 billion this year, adding about $600 million from last year, according to the KTO.

The tourism agency pledged to step up its marketing efforts to attract more than 20 million tourists next year by introducing wider options and customized programs to meet diverse needs.

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