Some 4.3 million Chinese tourists visited Korea last year and spent W3.75 trillion here on their credit cards, according to Shinhan Card on Wednesday (US$1=W1,026). That marked a whopping 82.7 percent increase from 2012.
The rise was especially notable in plastic surgery. Chinese visitors spent W65 billion on plastic surgery last year, up 85 percent and accounting for 47 percent of total spending by foreigners at Korean hospitals last year.
Park Chang-hoon at Shinhan Card said, "More than 70 percent of Chinese visitors who have plastic surgery here were wealthy people who stayed in top hotels like the Hyatt and Hilton."
Spending by Chinese tourists on skiing and other leisure activities also surged 103 percent, mainly due to an influx of Chinese visitors at the Alpensia Resort in Gangwon Province after Pyeongchang was chosen as the venue for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Spending by Chinese tourists grew more rapidly in superstores (up 38 percent) and clothes boutiques (31 percent) than department stores (21 percent) and duty free shops (17 percent).
There has been a drop in the number of tour groups being herded through department stores and duty free shops while an increasing number of younger Chinese people go to supermarkets and trendy clothing shops near university campuses, where they can enjoy a more vibrant culture, according to travel agencies.