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Tensions Between South Korea and Japan Now Affecting Air Travel

Tensions Between South Korea and Japan Now Affecting Air Travel
Jeff Edwards

An escalating trade dispute between Japan and South Korea is leading airlines from both countries to suspend service to each other’s airports. Although airline officials say that the canceled routes have more to do with decreased demand than political pressure, dueling sanctions are beginning to take a toll on scheduled flights connecting the two rival nations.

Rising tensions with Japan have led two of South Korea’s biggest airlines to suspend some routes serving destinations in the land of the rising sun. Likewise, Japanese carriers have started to scale back service to and from airports in Korea.

Both Korean Air and Korean budget airline T’way Air have indicated they will dramatically reduce service between the two countries. Airline officials say that the move is in response to a sharp downturn in travel on the routes and are not necessarily connected to the increasingly contentious trade dispute.

“The profitability [of the routes] has been low since their launch last November and December,” a T’way Air spokesperson told Nikkei Asian Review. 

The friction between the two rival nations came to a head after courts ruled that Japanese business assets could legally be seized in order to finance reparations for former wartime slave laborers. A series of tit-for-tat retaliatory moves eventually resulted in Japan threatening to expel South Korea from its “white list” of preferred trading partners. Should officials in Japan make good on that threat, Japanese companies could soon be required to seek specific government approval before exporting or importing products to and from Korea.

Although overall overseas tourism to Japan has increased by 3.7% according to the most recent data collected by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), there are signs that the ongoing diplomatic and economic issues with South Korea have started to weigh on the number of Japan-bound visitors. The number of foreign visitors from Korea decreased by 3.8% during this same period.


[Featured Image: Korean Air]

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