Japan became a popular tourist spot for South Koreans after all coronavirus-related travel restrictions were lifted this year. Japan's geographical distance from South Korea allows S. Korean travelers to move to its neighboring country within a few hours. In the first quarter of 2019, a year before the COVID-19 pandemic, a total of 11,220,788 people traveled to Japan.
The low exchange rate of the Japanese yen has made traveling to Japan more affordable than visiting certain popular domestic tourist destinations such as the southern resort island of Jeju for the southern port city of Busan. The Japanese currency almost reached its lowest level in eight years against the South Korean won, being quoted at 9.12 per won on July 12. This favorable exchange rate has led to increased interest in traveling to Japan among South Korean tourists.
According to the state aviation statistics information service operated by the land ministry, a total of 29,506,492 outbound travelers left South Korea to visit other countries and 8,647,898 people traveled from South Korea to Japan in 1H 2023, accounting for 28.6 percent of the total outbound travelers. An average of 174 people were aboard a single airplane to Japan, filling up to about 90 percent of the seats.
Meanwhile, 1,837,695 people traveled to China, with an average of 87 people per airplane, filling up less than 70 percent of seats. For an air carrier to make a profit, it has to fill up more than 70 percent of seats of an airplane. Due to decreased number of South Korean travelers headed to China, flag carriers Korean Air and Asiana Airlines decided to temporarily shut down some routes to the Chinese mainland.
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