SEOUL, May 26 (Yonhap) — Overseas card spending by South Koreans dropped at the fastest rate in over a decade in the first three months of this year on a sharp decline in the number of outbound travelers caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, central bank data showed Tuesday.

The overall amount of money spent overseas by South Koreans using cards came to about US$3.6 billion in the January-March period, down 23 percent from $4.68 billion in the same period last year, according to the data from the Bank of Korea (BOK).

It marks the sharpest on-year decline since the second quarter of 2009, when the amount plunged 31.5 percent on-year in the aftermath of the global financial crisis the year before.

From three months earlier, the amount saw a 25.3 percent drop, marking the sharpest on-quarter decline since the 32.6 percent drop posted in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the BOK.’

The drop is “largely attributed to a sharp decline in the number of local residents going abroad due to the spread of the new coronavirus,” the BOK said.

In the three months that ended March 31, the number of outbound South Koreans tumbled 43.8 percent from three months earlier to about 3.7 million, it noted.

The number had gained 7.3 percent from a month earlier to around 2.51 million in January, but it began to plummet after South Korea confirmed its first COVID-19 case on Jan. 20.

In February, the number of outbound South Koreans plunged 58.3 percent on-month to around 1.05 million, followed by a 86.3 percent plunge to a mere 140,000 the following month.

With the drop in the number of people going overseas, the number of cards used overseas also dipped 14.8 percent on-year to some 14.5 million, with the average amount of money spent with each card falling 9.7 percent to $247.

Meanwhile, the amount of card spending by foreign visitors in South Korea plunged 30.6 percent on-year to some $1.49 billion in the first quarter, apparently due to a drop in the number of foreign visitors to the country.

It marks the sharpest on-year decline since the second quarter of 2017, when the amount tumbled 33.1 percent on-year.