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Coronavirus

Tokyo site of 1973 Kim Dae-jung abduction to pause hotel operations

Grand Palace, popular with overseas tourists, faced 70% decline in bookings

Then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, right, is welcomed by then-Japanese Emperor Akihito as he arrives at the Imperial Palace for a luncheon in 2002.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- The Hotel Grand Palace, where South Korean dissident leader Kim Dae-jung was kidnapped in 1973, will temporarily shut its doors in July, hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Earnings have eroded as occupancy rates have plunged, with far fewer tourists and business travelers from within Japan and abroad staying at the property. Banquet and wedding demand has also declined. Despite cost-cutting efforts, resurgent COVID-19 cases in Japan have undercut prospects for a recovery.

The Grand Palace, which has 458 rooms, will continue welcoming guests through the end of June to honor existing reservations. A decision on when to reopen will be made based on ongoing developments, it said. Tourists from overseas accounted for about half its guests before the pandemic, and traffic has fallen about 70%, according to the hotel.

Located just north of the Imperial Palace, the hotel opened in 1972 as a sister property to the Palace Hotel in the capital's Marunouchi district.

In August the following year, agents of South Korea's Central Intelligence Agency kidnapped Kim at the hotel, where he was meeting with anti-authoritarian dissidents. Kim would become South Korea's president in 1998 and receive the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in democracy and human rights.

The hotel has also hosted such events as Japan's professional baseball draft.

The Hotel Grand Palace will remain open until the end of June. (Photo from the hotel's website)

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