This undated file photo shows Incheon International Airport crowded with outbound travelers. (Yonhap)
An increased demand on non-Japanese routes helped offset lower demand on Japanese routes in August amid trade tensions between Seoul and Tokyo, the transport ministry said Sunday.
The number of South Koreans who traveled to Japan in August plunged more than 20 percent as outbound travelers shunned Japan for alternative destinations in Europe, China and other Asian nations amid a trade row between the two Asian neighbor, according to data from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.
It was the first monthly negative growth in outbound travel demand on Japanese routes this year, the ministry said.
But demand on Chinese routes jumped 13 percent in August, with demand on other Asian routes and European routes rising 15 percent and 10 percent, respectively, it said.
In total, the number of air passengers came to 11.15 million in August, up 5.4 percent from a year earlier, with the number on domestic routes and the number on international routes jumping 8.9 percent and 4.2 percent, respectively, the data showed.
Airlines have diversified their routes by reducing the number of flights to Japan since August and instead increasing flights on non-Japanese routes as they expect travel demand to Japanese cities will continue to remain weak for the time being.
In July, Japan tightened regulations on exports to South Korea of three high-tech materials crucial for the production of semiconductors and displays. In August, Japan officially removed South Korea from its list of countries given preferential treatment in trade procedures.
Last month, South Korea also took Japan off its own list of favored trade partners in a tit-for-tat measure.
Japan's move is seen as a retaliatory measure against a Seoul court ruling that ordered Japanese companies to compensate South Korean workers forced into labor during World War II. (Yonhap)