Currency exchangers on rise as Chinese tourists surge

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SEOUL, Oct 27 -The number of currency exchange businesses in South Korea has been increasing on demand created by a surge in Chinese tourists, data showed Monday.

The number of currency exchange businesses in South Korea reached 1,351 as of the end of September, increasing by 76 from the end of last year, according to the data by the Bank of Korea.

The figure had declined since peaking at 1,424 in 2009 but began to rise again last year.

By area, Seoul accounted for nearly half of the total figure, with the number of such businesses in the capital reaching 564. Gyeonggi Province came next with 217, followed by Busan with 110. There were a total of 89 currency exchangers in Jeju, another popular destination for tourists.

The rise was credited to a sharp influx of Chinese tourists who have emerged as a new growth engine for South Korean businesses.

Some 4.7 million Chinese visited the country in the January-September period, accounting for 43.9 percent of all tourists, according to data from the Korea Tourism Organization. The figure marks a 36.5 percent on-year jump.

“I don’t know much about the industry, but since the store is in Myeongdong, most of my customers are Chinese tourists,” said an owner of a foreign exchange business located in the famous shopping district.

In line with a rise in currency exchange businesses, the government is pushing to ease regulations on the industry that is seeing an increase in the portion of mom-and-pop stores.