Airfares from Japan to South Korea drop to under $10

Travel

(CNN) — If you’ve ever wanted to travel between Japan and South Korea, there’s no better time than now — air fares are as low as $8.38.

As a trade spat between the two countries drags on, travel between them is dropping — and so are flight prices.

It costs as little as 10,000 South Korean won ($8.38) to fly one-way from Seoul to Fukuoka on budget airline Eastar Jet right now, and only 1,000 Japanese yen ($9.35) the other way.

This is excluding tax and fuel surcharges — but still, added up, the prices are far lower than normal. The Eastar flight from Fukuoka to Seoul costs 7,590 yen ($71) with all the additional fees.

It’s particularly unusual since September usually sees higher ticket prices — many people travel to visit family for the national Chuseok holiday in mid-September, also known as Korean Thanksgiving.

Travelers in past years have complained on online forums about prices being as high as several hundred US dollars.

Rising tensions

This is just the latest side-effect of the ongoing trade dispute, which started in July when Tokyo placed controls on South Korea exports of three chemical materials, which are used to make computer chips, among other things.

Last month, Japan officially removed South Korea from its list of preferred trading partners. In response, South Korea did the same, and ended a military sharing agreement with Japan that was signed in 2016.

Tensions before then had been rising for months, stemming in part from Japan’s colonial rule over the Korean peninsula in the early 20th century.

Earlier in August, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the country was “a victim of great suffering from Japanese imperialism” in a statement on the conflict.

Now, the countries’ tourism industries are taking a hit. There were 561,700 South Korean tourists visiting Japan in July — a 7.6% decrease from the same time last year, according to Japanese government statistics.
The reverse is also true — the number of Japanese travelers to South Korea dropped by 1.3% from May to June, then 2.7% from June to July, according to the government’s Korea Tourism Organization.

These declining travel figures are being reflected in airlines’ flight prices and schedules.

In August, Korean Air said it was cutting six flight routes to and from Japan, citing “decreasing demand of Japanese routes due to Korea-Japan tensions.”

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