Tensions between Japan and Korea Will Benefit to ASEAN Countries

South Korean tourists in Vietnam

Political tensions between Japan and Korea are translating into a sharp decline in passengers and flights between both countries. South Korea Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) is now pushing to have full open skies with ASEAN countries to compensate the drop in traffic…

Japan-South Korea routes are among the busiest in the world but the recent spat between both countries over historical and political issues have a negative effect on air transport there. According to a recent statement of Korea Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT), total flights between both countries declined by 21.2% year-on-year from July to October.

To compensate the drop and stimulate traffic into Seoul, the South Korean government is now showing more flexibility in slots attribution at Seoul Incheon International Airport and is now seeking to widen air services with ASEAN countries. “MOLIT supports the airline’s smooth route diversification by providing maximum support for slots, aircraft takeoffs and landing times, and proactively permitting regular and irregular flights and changing plans,” explained the Ministry’s statement.

While Korea is among the top three to five largest incoming markets for each member country of the ASEAN, outgoing travellers from Southeast Asia to Korea have also been on the rise. Demand is there and the MOLIT now is looking to negotiate with ASEAN ministries of transport more traffic rights. The Korea-ASEAN summit in Busan next week is expected to further bolster air connectivity. Korea is looking to further simplify visa conditions for ASEAN citizens to boost total number of arrivals from all of Asia to Korea to 15 million travellers at the end of next year compared to 12 million in 2018.

ASEAN countries already accounted for 2.45 million arrivals into the country last year with Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines being the top inbound markets. ASEAN countries recorded over eight million Korean travellers in 2018.

Joo Hyung-chul, head for the government’s New Southern Policy Committee, who declared that the government has been in talks with ASEAN countries including Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei to remove restrictions on non-stop flight operations. With Singapore, South Korea is even looking for a complete Open Skies agreement which would allow airlines from both countries to have fifth freedom traffic rights, which would translate into flights to other destinations beyond Korea and Singapore.