Mutual visits by Taiwanese, South Korean travelers hit record high

Shopping mall staff wait with gifts for tourists at the trendy shopping district in Taipei, Taiwan, in this file photo taken on Monday, March 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

SEOUL (CNA) – The combined number of visits made by Taiwanese and South Koreans to each other’s country has reached 2 million this year, the most in history. The 2 million visitor milestone was reached on Dec. 15, according to Huang Yi-ping (黃怡平), the head of Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau office in Seoul.

The steady rise of mutual visits by citizens of the two countries began in December 2004 as a result of the resumption of aviation services that were cut in September 1992 after Seoul switched its diplomatic recognition from the Republic of China (ROC) to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Huang said.

The next milestone came in 2012, when a new route between the city airports of Taipei and Seoul – Taipei Songshan Airport and Gimpo International Airport – was launched, helping push total visitors past the 1 million mark in 2014. In September 2015, bigger aircraft were allowed to fly between Taiwan and Incheon International Airport, increasing capacity to further boost visitor numbers, Huang said.

South Korea is currently Taiwan’s fourth largest source of foreign visitors, after China, Japan, and Hong Kong and Macau. But the push to the 2 million mark in mutual visits this year has been mostly because of an increase in travel to Korea by Taiwanese.

Visitor arrivals from South Korea to Taiwan were down 3.86 percent in the first nine months of 2018 from the same period a year earlier to 719,767, according to Tourism Bureau figures. Outbound visits by Taiwanese to South Korea totaled 820,318 during that same period, up 23.4 percent from a year earlier.

By Chiang Yuan-chen and Elizabeth Hsu