SEOUL, Aug. 6 (Korea Bizwire) — Several Japanese local governments have asked South Korean low-cost carriers (LLCs) to retain flight routes to Japan amid a rising boycott of travel to the neighboring country, industry sources said Tuesday.
High-level delegations from Japanese cities and prefectures, including Takamatsu City, recently visited such South Korean budget carriers as Air Seoul, Jeju Air and Eastar Jet to make such requests.
Those Japanese local governments also proposed a variety of cooperative projects in a bid to win the hearts of local low-fare carriers, according to the sources.
Their visits come as a bilateral trade feud has led to a drop in the number of South Korean tourists to Japan, which is feared to hit the economies of those Japanese regions.
In early July, Tokyo curbed exports of three key materials to South Korea, in apparent retaliation against a series of court rulings here that ordered Japanese firms to compensate forced labor victims during World War II.
The Japanese government passed a bill to remove South Korea from its “whitelist” of trusted trade partners last week, further aggravating the situation.
Japan’s export curbs have prompted a growing number of South Koreans participating in the “Boycott Japan” campaign against travel to the neighboring country and purchases of its products.
According to data from the Seoul government, the number of South Korean travelers to Japan shrank 13 percent on-year to slightly over 467,000 during the July 16-30 period.
The figure is widely expected to slip further down the road amid the escalating trade spat with LLCs reporting tumbling ticket reservation rates for August.
In response to falling travel demand, South Korean budget carriers have already cut flights or plan to streamline their Japanese routes that connect South Korea’s regional cities to less popular Japanese cities.
Full-service carriers Korean Air Lines Co. and Asiana Airlines Inc. have also announced plans to suspend or reduce flights to some Japanese cities.