News / Asia

Japan's 'Golden Week' Loses Luster for S. Korean Travel Industry

A Japanese tourist (R) speaks to a volunteer interpreter in Central Seoul April 8, 2013.
A Japanese tourist (R) speaks to a volunteer interpreter in Central Seoul April 8, 2013.
Japan's 'Golden Week' holiday period is about to begin. Normally this is a time for the tourism industry in neighboring South Korea to celebrate.  It is a primary destination for vacationing Japanese. But travel reservations indicate a significant downturn this year.

Bookings for Japanese to visit South Korea between this Friday and May 6, are 11 percent lower than last year, according to a survey by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

For a decade, the travel industry has enjoyed the fruits of the so-called “hallyu” boom, primarily driven by Japanese fans of South Korean television dramas and pop music groups.

But the industry has seen a steep slide in the number of Japanese visitors since last September, a month after a provocative visit by then-President Lee Myung-bak to a small island held by South Korea, but also claimed by Japan (known as Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese).

The Korea Association of Travel Agents says the number of Japanese tourists plunged more than 22 percent during the first quarter of this year.

Territorial disputes

According to Rhee Byung-chan, director of the Japan team at the Korea Tourism Organization, there are several factors for the decline.

Rhee said not only can it be blamed on the lingering territorial spat, but also on the weakening of the Japanese yen and alarming headlines about North Korea.

In recent months, Pyongyang shot into space a long-range rocket and conducted its third nuclear test, before further rattling nerves internationally with stark warnings of imminent war on the Korean peninsula.

Cho Gye-seok, a director of the Korea Association of Travel Agents, said this plunge is being regarded more seriously than the one three years ago when fears about avian influenza scared off 30 percent of Japanese tourists. But, he noted that was a global trend and the numbers bounced back.

Cho explained that some travel agencies have seen a loss of half of their business, forcing them to send their employees on extended vacations or lay off workers.

If this continues, Cho said, it will lead to a collapse of the system tailored for catering to Japanese tourists. Thus, the government is urgently being asked to help.

Enhanced marketing

The industry wants the government to provide funds for enhanced marketing and for organizing promotional events and festivals.

Japan Team Director Rhee at the Korea Tourism Organization said a new advertising campaign is also about to be unveiled to attempt to lure more Japanese back to South Korea.

South Korean rapper, PsySouth Korean rapper, Psy
South Korean rapper, Psy
South Korean rapper, Psy
He said from mid-May the tourism organization will begin airing television commercials in Japan featuring the musician Psy, who is famous for the most-watched online music video --“Gangnam Style”.

The impact from the loss of the Japanese has been somewhat buffered by a rise in the number of inbound Chinese visitors.

During the first quarter of this year, 723,000 Chinese visited South Korea, an increase of 38 percent compared to the same period in 2012.

Industry officials said, unlike the Japanese, visitors from China appear unfazed by the threats from North Korea.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Photogallery Belgian Security Measures Foreshadow New Normal for Europe

Rising threat of terrorism, disaffected Muslim populations and open borders, along with refugee, migrant crisis, are creating perfect storm for Europe, which some analysts fear continent is ill-suited to weather

Competing Claims of Responsibility for Mali Hotel Attack

Malian authorities ask public for help in identifying gunmen killed in attack, amid conflicting claims of responsibility from multiple jihadist groups active in the country

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs