SEOUL, April 27 (Yonhap) — The foreign population in South Korea has fallen below the 2 million mark for the first time in over five years amid the new coronavirus pandemic, government data showed Tuesday.

As of March, the total number of foreign residents here stood at around 1.99 million, down 9.2 percent from a year ago when the corresponding figure was slightly over 2.2 million, according to data compiled by the Ministry of Justice.

This marks the first time the foreign population has sunk below 2 million since December 2015, when the number was around 1.89 million.

It is also the 16th consecutive month the foreign population here has declined since peaking at over 2.52 million in December 2019.

The downturn is attributable to decreases in the number of foreigners both on short- and long-term stays in South Korea, which fell by 10.5 percent and 8.9 percent in March from a year earlier, respectively.

Of the long-term foreign residents, the number of those who hold government-issued alien registration cards also fell by 12.5 percent to around 1.1 million over the same period, marking the lowest figure in seven years.

The report showed that Chinese accounted for the largest proportion of the foreign population here at 43.4 percent, or about 868,000, followed by Vietnamese at 10.6 percent, Thais at 8.9 percent and U.S. citizens at 7.3 percent.