Japan Data

Number of South Koreans Visiting Japan Plummets

Society Travel Global Exchange

While the Rugby World Cup helped cover a drop in visitors from South Korea in September, the trend is a concern for Japan’s tourist industry.

Statistics released on October 16 by the Japan National Tourism Organization showed that 201,200 South Koreans visited Japan in September, a 58.1% year-on-year decrease. This is the second straight major year-on-year decrease, following the 48.0% drop in August, when a total of 308,700 South Koreans visited Japan.

The decrease reflects worsening bilateral relations in the wake of decisions that include Japan’s removal of South Korea from its “white list” of favored trade partners in early August, followed by South Korea’s announcement it will scrap the intel-sharing General Security of Military Information Agreement. The breakdown in relations has also led to potential tourists deciding against trips to Japan. Since this summer, a number of regular airline routes to Japan have been suspended, mainly among South Korea’s low-cost carriers.

On the other hand, Japan’s hosting of the 2019 Rugby World Cup helped bring an influx of tourists from Europe, the Americas, and Oceania, while visitor numbers from China and Southeast Asia remained robust. These factors lifted the overall number of tourists for the month to 2,272,900, a 5.2% increase compared to September 2018. This included a year-on-year visitor increase of 21.6% from the United States (127,200 visitors); of 84.4% from Britain (49,600), of 31.6% from France (26,500), of 39.0% from Russia (15,000), and of 25.5% from China (819,100).

Even though the number of visitors from South Korea dropped year-on-year in the summer and autumn of 2018, due to a number of natural disasters that included earthquakes and typhoons, the overall total for the year set a new record, at 7,539,000, or a quarter of all visitors to Japan.

The government has set the target of attracting 40 million visitors in 2020, when the Tokyo Olympics will be held, but this may be hard to achieve without relying on the huge number of South Korean tourists that had been flocking to Japan until recently.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo © Jiji.)

tourism South Korea