SEOUL – The number of Japanese who visited South Korea fell sharply in 2013 as the yen continued to depreciate, according to the South Korean Justice Ministry.
“About 2.71 million Japanese visited South Korea in 2013, a 22.4 percent drop from the previous year,” the ministry said in a statement Wednesday, attributing the trend to the rising cost of travel.
Although not mentioned in the ministry’s statement, observers believe that the drop in tourists from Japan might also be linked to the strained diplomatic ties between the neighbors, as well as the climbing strength of the won, which is causing concern in Seoul.
Relations remain mired at their lowest point in years due to differing historical perceptions of Japan’s brutal colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
A territorial dispute over a pair of rocky South Korea-controlled islets in the Sea of Japan known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea, has also been mentioned by observers as a factor in the decline.
The diplomatic problems have prevented summit-level talks from being held between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who has been in office for almost a year.
Meanwhile, the number of Chinese visitors to South Korea shot up 43.6 percent in 2013 to about 3.92 million compared with the previous year.