Chinese tourists wait in a line at a Lotte duty free shop in Seoul, South Korea. Photo: Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji

The Bank of Korea said Thursday that the country’s first half trade in services deficit rose to US$15.7 billion, up 37.9% from the US$9.7 billion recorded last year.

Joongang Daily reports the deficit was the worst ever, and was due to China’s ban on tours to the country.

“The worsening travel and logistics balances led into the increased services deficit,” said Chung Kyu-il, director general of the Economic Statistics Department at the Bank of Korea. “While the number of Chinese tourists drastically declined, that of outbound travelers increased,” he said.

The ban on Chinese tour groups to South Korea was part of informal sanction efforts initiated by Beijing to pressure Seoul to reverse its decision to deploy the THAAD missile defense system.

South Korea’s overall trade surplus was US$7.01 for the first half of the year, down 42% from the same period last year.