The data issued by Japan Government indicates that the number of South Korean visitors to Japan dipped 48.0 per cent in August 2019 from a year earlier, to 308,700 due to escalating tensions between the two neighbours over wartime history and trade policy.
The Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) estimated the number of visitors from overseas decreased 2.2 per cent to 2,520,100 down in August for the first time since September last year when a powerful typhoon hit western Japan and a major earthquake rocked Hokkaido.
The Japanese government’s target is to attract 40 million foreign visitors by 2020 when the country is set to host the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. However, due to the deterioration in Tokyo-Seoul ties, the target seems unattainable as some airlines have suspended services connecting the two countries.
According to the JTA, South Korea ranked second in visitor numbers and spending after China. South Korea accounted for 24 per cent of all overseas tourism to Japan in 2018. In August 2019, China topped the list at 1,000,600, up 16.3 per cent, with Taiwan rising to second place at 420,300, up 6.5 per cent. South Korea dropped to third place from second, with Hong Kong in the fourth spot at 190,300, down 4.0 per cent.
The total number of overseas visitors between January and August 2019 rose 3.9 per cent to a record high of 22,144,900, JTA added.
In Okinawa Prefecture, where 25 per cent of foreign guests were from South Korea last year, the number of regular flights from South Korea is expected to shrink to 30 a week this month from around 70 in July. Hotels are taking a blow too due to scarcity of tourists.
After last year’s ruling by South Korean court, ordering Japanese companies to pay compensation for wartime forced labour, tensions increased between the two countries.
In July, Japan tightened export controls on South Korea citing security concerns. Seoul, which saw the move as retaliation for the court decisions, decided in August to terminate a military intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo.