SEOUL-- Air traffic in South Korea rose 4.9 percent in the first half from a year earlier helped by increased demand on non-Chinese routes, government data showed Wednesday.

The number of airplanes which flew on domestic and international routes to and from South Korean airports rose to 373,690 in the January-June period from 358,195 a year earlier, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation said in a statement.

"An increase in travel demand on routes to Japan and Southeast Asian countries helped offset sharp declines in demand on the Chinese routes in the cited period," the ministry said in a statement.

Increased flights offered by low-cost carriers also bolstered outbound travel demand mainly on Asian routes, it said.

The ministry expected the number of planes which fly via local airports to exceed 750,000 by the end of 2017.

Starting March 15, China banned the sale of group travel packages to South Korea as part of its apparent retaliation against the installation of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.

Seoul and Washington have argued that THAAD is purely aimed at countering missile threats from North Korea. But Beijing has opposed the system, arguing it could be used against it.

The ministry predicted demand for Chinese routes will continue to remain weak, but the overall air traffic should rise backed by high demand on other Asian routes during the summer peak season.

Source: Yonhap News Agency