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Seoul may act against Tokyo’s Korean Air boycott

The South Korean government said on Friday that it will take various countermeasures if Tokyo refuses Seoul’s request to revoke its boycott of Korean Air in protest of its demonstration flight over Dokdo.

Japan’s foreign ministry ordered its officials not to fly with Korean Air for a month starting next Monday in an unprecedented action against the private airliner for test flying its new Airbus A380 over South Korea’s easternmost island of Dokdo.

Seoul has urged Tokyo to withdraw the measure, vowing to take countermeasures if it doesn’t.

“We will consider various options if Japan does not retract the measure before Monday,” a Seoul official said on Friday.

“As of now, we are waiting for Japan’s response (to Seoul’s demand). As Dokdo is under our effective control, we have a number of means to respond.”

The ministry is reportedly considering a number of options including refraining from using Japan’s flag carriers, sending a high-level official to Dokdo and disclosing the construction work going on there.

Second Vice Foreign Minister Min Dong-seok presided over a meeting of ministry officials to discuss countermeasures to Tokyo’s latest move regarding Dokdo.

Chang Won-sam, director general of the ministry’s Northeast Asia division, plans to deliver Seoul’s position to his Japanese counterpart who will be visiting Korea on Sunday evening.

The ministry is also considering expressing displeasure to Tokyo during Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan’s meeting with Japanese foreign minister Takeaki Matsumoto on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum, which will be held next week in Bali.

The South Korean foreign ministry strongly denounced Japan’s “sanction against a Korean private company” on Thursday, saying that it cannot accept any kind of protest by Japan against the flag carrier’s flight in South Korean airspace.

“Reflecting on the current relations between the two countries, this kind of measure by Japan is highly disappointing and regrettable,” ministry spokesman Cho Byung-je said.

Tokyo’s foreign ministry has also informed Seoul that it will not invite Korean Air officials to its events, diplomatic sources here said.

Rep. Lee Joo-young, chief of the ruling Grand National Party’s policy committee, demanded Japan immediately revoke the boycott.

“I strongly urge the Japanese government to withdraw such an unprecedented measure right now,” Rep. Lee said.

“It is regrettable that the Japanese foreign ministry ordered its officials not to use Korean Air because a private jet test flew over Dokdo, which is our territory.”

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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