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Over 3m Koreans visit Japan in H1

No. of Korean tourists visiting Japan almost triple that of Japanese tourists to Korea

July 31, 2023 - 16:32 By Shim Woo-hyun

The number of South Korean tourists to Japan surpassed 3 million in the first half of this year, recovering to pre-pandemic levels. The number of Japanese people visiting South Korea, however, has rebounded at a much slower pace to reach some 860,000, according to government data Monday.

The yen’s prolonged weakness and Japan’s well-established tourism infrastructure and diverse tourist destinations made the difference, industry sources explained.

According to data compiled by the Korea Tourism Organization and the Japan Tourism Agency, the number of South Korean people who visited Japan in the first six months of the year reached 3.1 million, around 3.6 times higher than the number of Japanese visitors to Korea at 862,000 during the same period.

The number of Korean tourists to Japan in the first half came to 81 percent of the figure during the first half of 2019, 3.9 million, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Koreans also accounted for 29.2 percent of the total number of foreign visitors to Japan, according to the data.

However, the number of Japanese people who came to Korea remained at 862,000, about 52.1 percent of the pre-pandemic level of 1.6 million.

Of the total foreign visitors, the number of Japanese tourists visiting Korea ranked at the top, but their proportion was at 19.5 percent.

Japan drew in more tourists overall than Korea in the January to June period. Some 10.7 million visited the country, 2.4 times higher than the 4.4 million visitors to Korea during the same period.

By country, the number of Taiwanese who visited Japan in the first half was around 1.8 million, 4.4 times that of those to Korea at 402,000.

Hong Kong had 910,000 visitors to Japan, 5.4 times that of the 169,000 to Korea.

The number of tourists from the US to Japan came to 972,000, while those to Korea came to 514,000.

Japan also had more visitors from Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Vietnam, as well as European countries such as the UK, France and Germany, the data showed.

Industry sources said a weak Japanese yen has helped Japan to quickly recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“‌A weak yen, which continued for several years, has made the recent increase in international arrivals and supported Japan's tourism rebound,” a source in the local tourism industry said.

During the first quarter last year, won was exchanged at over 1,000 won ($0.8) per 100 yen, but has dropped to around 900 won per 100 yen earlier this year.

The source added that Japan also has more options in terms of tourist destinations across the country, including Osaka, Kyoto, Sapporo and Okinawa, whereas South Korea’s tourist destinations are limited to Seoul, Busan and Jeju Island.

Japan also has more airports across the country than Korea, making it more accessible to tourists, the source added.