According to the ministry and Statistics Korea, previously the National Statistical Office, the country's travel industry contracted by nearly 25 percent year-on-year during the third quarter, and the sector's revenue in September dropped by nearly 32 percent compared to the same month last year.
Sales at hotels and resorts dipped 3 percent in the third quarter, compared to last year, while theme parks and public gardens saw a 7.6-percent decline in revenue during the same period, and an 11.6 percent drop during September alone.
Rail and bus transportation dipped 5.5 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively, while taxi companies also suffered a nearly 10-percent drop in revenue during the July-September period, with commuters preferring to drive their own cars.
Sales at local pubs and restaurants decreased by 7 percent and 2.7 percent each, while sports-related businesses such as stadiums and racing arenas saw their sales go down by 5.7 percent.
The growing fears over the flu pandemic even seems to be cracking what has been previously considered unbreakable - Korean parents' zeal for the education of their children.
Sales at private academies, or "hagwon," dropped 7 percent during the third quarter with more parents letting their children stay at home.
Indeed, in early October we saw that over 220 events were cancelled, including many of the country's biggeset fall festivals, after the government in September encouraged festivals that would attract over 1,000 people over two or more days to close.
However, foreign tourism has actually increased, writes the Korea Herald, perhaps more an indication that foreign tourism was never high to begin with than a comment on swine flu:
According to the Korea Immigration Service, the number of foreign visitors to Korea last month hit a record 464,793, an 18.8 percent increase from the previous month.
"The country saw the highest number of foreigners enter Korea last month since the opening of Incheon International Airport in 2001," said Kim Tae-soo, chief of the agency's intelligence analysis and management team.
Japanese visitors accounted for 32.3 percent of the total, followed by Chinese and Americans with 17 percent and 11.7 percent, respectively.
The number of people from Hong Kong has dramatically increased 81.1 percent to 19,848 from a year ago.
"China's national holidays in early October, as well as a simpler visa process for Chinese individuals wishing to visit Korea has contributed to the growing number of foreign visitors to Korea," the official said.
Fear of the A(H1N1) flu virus seems to be much lower among foreign travelers than it is among Koreans.
"I know about the new flu spreading in Korea, but it is also spreading around the world. Since I learned about the preventive measures, I think I am okay with it," Kyna Bayangan, from the Philippines, said.
The government raised its flu alert status yesterday to the highest level of "red." The authorities raised alert status because an average of 8,857 people caught swine flu per day last week, up from 4,420 the week before. A total of 42 people had died in Korea from A(H1N1) as of yesterday.
I don't think the 42 includes the 19-year-old student from Chungju who died yesterday, though she had been in a "special school" after complications from an operation when she was young. From Yonhap on raising the alert level:
As part of its preparation effort, a central disaster relief headquarters will be set up Wednesday under the Ministry of Public Administration and Security. It will be tasked with overall preparations such as providing more hospital beds, intensive care units and medical personnel.
"There is a possibility that the number of H1N1 cases in the country could shoot up around late November and that requires readiness," said Park Ha-jeong, a deputy minister for public health.
. . .
Park said that besides getting the country prepared, ongoing efforts to cope with serious flu cases and move forward with vaccination on about 35 percent of the population will be quickened.
"The government will mobilize all available medical personnel to treat patients and enhance the country's capability to provide anti-viral drugs," he said.
The policymaker said once ongoing vaccinations for doctors is concluded, both civilian and military medical personnel will be employed to help with vaccinations at schools, starting around Nov. 16.
The deputy minister, however, made clear that Seoul is not contemplating the closure of schools and workplaces to curb the spread of the epidemic since most experts have said such steps will not be effective.
"The H1N1 is spreading fast but its fatality rate is roughly similar to seasonal flu and much lower than the severe acute respiratory syndrome or bird flu epidemics that have scared the world in the past," he said.
Some schools have been closing---see here, here, and here---though it's up to the principals or school boards.