ArrowArtboardCreated with Sketch.Title ChevronTitle ChevronEye IconIcon FacebookIcon LinkedinIcon Mail ContactPath LayerIcon MailPositive ArrowIcon PrintSite TitleTitle ChevronIcon Twitter
Coronavirus

WHO slams Japan and South Korea's tit-for-tat travel curbs

New restrictions to freeze wide range of Asia's business connections

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, right, speaks next to Michael Ryan, Executive Director of WHO's Health Emergencies Program during a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japan's business and tourism sectors are bracing for a widespread impact on revenues after new restrictions on arrivals from China and South Korea were enacted to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

Effective Monday, Japan will quarantine all arrivals from China and South Korea for two weeks. Tokyo is also nullifying short-term visas issued in those two countries until the end of March, and will not issue new visas, barring human rights reasons or other exceptions. In response, South Korea is suspending tourism visa waivers for Japanese travelers starting Monday.

The ratcheting up in travel curbs between Tokyo and Seoul was criticized on Friday as a  "political spat," by Mike Ryan, who heads the World Health Organization's emergency response program. "Both countries are doing a fine job in the face of this epidemic," Ryan said, but noted that "these restrictions are not helping" in halting the spread of the virus.

Travel bans "should be carefully considered, should be public health evidence driven, and short-term," Ryan said. There is concern, however, that the restrictions will have an impact on business.

About 120,000 Japanese citizens lived in China as of October 2018, with another 39,000 living in South Korea, according to Japan's Foreign Ministry. Chinese and South Koreans also account for almost half of all foreign visitors to Japan. Long-term obstacles to travel could risk cooling the region's economy as a whole.

Quarantines and visa cancellations are expected to decrease travel between Japan, South Korea and China, which is already down from the coronavirus outbreak.   © Reuters

Because of travel restrictions, Toshiba is behind on post-delivery checks of products like semiconductors and elevators, largely in China. This step, where company technicians ensure products delivered to clients are working properly, is crucial when installing new equipment in factories, for example.

Toshiba had projected over 100 billion yen ($950 million) in revenue in China over February and March. Some of those orders may now be booked in the following fiscal year that ends March 2021.

Other companies are putting employee transfers on hold. Ricoh is delaying sending Japanese workers to overseas posts, with those supposed to leave in March or April not doing so until at least May. Honda Motor will postpone announcing personnel changes in China to May 1 from April 1.

The restrictions are also expected to deal another blow to a tourism, which is already suffering from the coronavirus outbreak. Less than 1 million new foreigners entered Japan in February, and Chinese entrants in particular plunged roughly 90% to under 60,000, Japan's Immigration Services Agency said Friday. Total Chinese visitors in 2019 had come to 9.59 million, or about 30% of all visitors to Japan.

Tourist destinations outside Tokyo have been hit particularly hard. February visitors to Nijo Castle in Kyoto fell 20% to 30%, largely from a drop in traffic from Asia. Total daily passengers on Kyoto's public buses dropped 9.8% on the year in February to 33,000, according to the city's transportation bureau.

"If effects from the travel restrictions on China and South Korea persist, we cannot avoid a serious blow to our operations," the bureau said.

Japanese travel to China and South Korea will also be hurt. JTB and Nippon Travel Agency canceled group tours to South Korea scheduled to leave through March 31, and will be refunding customers.

The Japanese government will request that flights from China and South Korea only land at Narita Airport, 60 km outside central Tokyo, or Kansai International Airport, near Osaka. All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines on Friday said they will further cut flights to China and South Korea, and South Korean carrier Asiana Airlines will suspend all flights to and from Japan starting Monday.

Sponsored Content

About Sponsored Content This content was commissioned by Nikkei's Global Business Bureau.

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this monthThis is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia;
the most dynamic market in the world.

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia

Get trusted insights from experts within Asia itself.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Try 1 month for $0.99

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this month

This is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia; the most
dynamic market in the world
.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Try 3 months for $9

Offer ends July 31st

Your trial period has expired

You need a subscription to...

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers and subscribe

Your full access to the Nikkei Asian Review has expired

You need a subscription to:

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers
NAR on print phone, device, and tablet media