SEOUL-- South Korean department stores saw Chinese customers drop in the first half of the year, industry data showed Tuesday, following a sharp decline in the number of Chinese visitors amid Seoul's diplomatic tension with Beijing over a missile deployment.

Lotte Department Store, the country's leading retailer, said its revenue from Chinese customers at its main store in central Seoul plunged 49 percent on-year in the first half of 2017.

The proportion of sales made by Chinese at the store among all foreigners dropped from 88 percent in 2016 to 82 percent last month. In contrast, the comparable figure for Southeast Asian countries increased from 4 percent to 7 percent, it said.

Its rival Shinsegae Department Store said its sales to Chinese customers for January to June also dropped 18 percent on-year, with Hyundai Department Store's revenue from Chinese declining 16 percent on-year.

In June, the number of Chinese tourists in South Korea plunged 66.4 percent compared to the same period last year. It marked a drop for fourth straight months after the Beijing government banned the sales of group tour packages to the neighboring country since mid-March in apparent retaliation over the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system here.

Source: Yonhap News Agency