Flights From Japan to South Korea Are Now Hundreds of Dollars Cheaper
Strained diplomacy between the two nations has hurt tourism
Five years ago, in a poll conducted by the BBC World Service, a whopping 79 percent of South Koreans said they viewed Japanese influence negatively. That opinion has only deteriorated since. The tension has culminated this year with escalating rhetoric and policy changes, which have indirectly led to uncommonly low prices on round-trip flights between the neighboring nations.
South Korea lies west across the Sea of Japan from Japan, less than 600 miles away. That’s about the distance from New York City to Detroit, but flights between the two countries have long been overpriced and prohibitive regardless, in the $200-300 range for a round-trip. Today, you can fly from Seoul to Fukuoka, and back, for $67. That’s including taxes and fees, so the base ticket is closer to $10.
The reason? South Koreans don’t want to visit Japan, and Japanese don’t want to visit South Korea. The two countries have been allies since the mid-20th century, when Japan recognized South Korea as the only legitimate government on the Korean Peninsula. But in recent years, old disputes both small (a disagreement over which country owns a pair of islands smaller than Grand Central Station) and very large (South Koreans upset over the Japanese colonial rule of their country in the early 20th century), have led to a trade war, and harmed intra-country tourism.
The countries have removed each other from their respective “preferred trade partner” lists, the South Korean Supreme Court recently ordered Japanese companies to pay reparations for WWII labor, and back at G20 in June, the countries failed to have a meaningful discussion on their growing divide. Geopolitically, the United States is massively invested in reconciliation here; as close allies to each country, it needs these two to figure things out, and challenge China in the region.
From a traveler’s perspective: if your conscience is okay finding opportunity in fractured diplomacy, this is a good time to visit one country, and fly to the other while over there. We recommend taking a look at flights over and then booking your additional flight to travel between the two nice and early. It’s likely it’ll less than your next Uber home from work drinks.
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