MATSUE, SHIMANE PREF. – Korea Express Air, a small South Korean airline, has decided to cancel charter flights to Izumo, Shimane Prefecture, because of falling demand for package tours as Tokyo and Seoul find themselves increasingly at odds over wartime issues, local officials said Friday.
Six round-trip flights scheduled from Gimpo Airport in Seoul to Izumo Airport from Saturday to July 25 will be canceled. The Shimane Prefectural Government said Korea Express Air notified it of the plan.
“We have heard from a travel agency that there are repercussions such as tour cancellations and difficulties to attract customers in the wake of worsening Japan-South Korean relations,” Shimane Gov. Tatsuya Maruyama said in a statement.
Maruyama said the prefecture is hoping the Korean charter flights will resume soon.
Using 50-seat planes, the occupancy rate averaged 50.3 percent between June 6, when charter flights began in South Korea, and Thursday, with a total of 402 people traveling, the prefectural government said.
The seats were all purchased by South Korean travel agencies and reserved exclusively by travelers from the international airport. The charter flights were scheduled through late October, with an eye to turning them into a regular service thereafter.
Japanese-South Korean relations are at their lowest ebb in many years, particularly over what Seoul sees as Tokyo’s reluctance to atone for wartime labor.
The issue of wartime compensation was resolved under the 1965 treaty that established diplomatic ties between the countries, but decisions by the South Korean Supreme Court and other courts last year ordered Japanese companies to compensate victims of what was recognized as forced labor from Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.