SEOUL, Oct. 30 (Korea Bizwire) — A record number of South Koreans traveled to Japan in the January-September period this year, data showed Monday, as favorable exchange rates and diplomatic tensions with Beijing moved their destination away from China.
Over 5.21 million South Koreans visited Japan during the cited months, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization, up 40.3 percent from the same period a year ago. The number is a record for the months and the second highest after Chinese travelers to Japan, whose number grew 11 percent to over 5.56 million.
Foreign visitors to Japan during the period increased 17.9 percent to 21.19 million.
Industry officials said the ongoing diplomatic row with Beijing over South Korea’s deployment of a U.S. missile defense system and the weak Japanese yen induced South Koreans to visit Japan rather than China, which had been their most preferred destination. The Japanese government offered other incentives, including simpler visa issuances and better duty-free benefits, they said.
In 2008, when the yen skyrocketed, the number of South Koreans going to Japan plummeted to 2.38 million and stayed at the level until 2012.
“Up until the beginning of this year, China was the place most traveled to by South Koreans,” an official at South Korea’s National Tourism Organization said. “But animosity against South Koreans began to prevail after China restricted travel to Seoul, so people are going to Japan instead of China.”