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Japan-South Korea rift

South Korean visitors to Japan down by half in August

Escalating Tokyo-Seoul tensions over trade and wartime history behind drop

The Japanese government's target of 40 million foreign visitors by 2020 has been overshadowed by the deterioration in Tokyo-Seoul ties.

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The number of South Korean visitors to Japan tumbled 48.0 percent in August from a year earlier to 308,700 amid escalating tensions between the two neighbors over wartime history and trade policy, government data showed Wednesday.

The estimated number of foreign visitors fell 2.2 percent to 2,520,100 in the reporting month, down for the first time since September last year when a powerful typhoon hit western Japan and a major earthquake rocked Hokkaido, the Japan Tourism Agency said.

While the Japanese government aims to attract 40 million foreign visitors by 2020, when the country hosts the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, the target has been overshadowed by the deterioration in Tokyo-Seoul ties, which has prompted some airlines to suspend services connecting the two countries.

South Korea accounted for 24 percent of overall foreign tourists to Japan in 2018, ranking second in total number and spending after China.

By country and region in August, China topped the list at 1,000,600, up 16.3 percent, with Taiwan rising to second place at 420,300, up 6.5 percent.

South Korea dropped to third from second, with Hong Kong fourth at 190,300, down 4.0 percent, according to the agency.

The total number of foreign visitors between January and August rose 3.9 percent to a record high of 22,144,900, it said.

Tensions between Tokyo and Seoul worsened after South Korean court rulings last year ordered Japanese companies to pay compensation for wartime labor.

Citing security concerns, Japan in July tightened export controls on South Korea, and Seoul, which saw the move as retaliation for the court decisions, decided in August to terminate a military intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo.

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