Japanese Tourists Flock to Korea as Spending Power Shrinks

  • By Song Hye-jin, Lee Tae-dong

    July 13, 2023 13:02

    Japanese tourists are returning to Korea in droves now that the weak yen makes travel further afield too expensive for many of them.
    According to the Korea Tourism Organization, 665,600 Japanese tourists visited Korea in the first five months of this year. Young women accounted for 27.6 percent drawn by their love of K-pop and Korean TV series and films.
    At Japan's biggest travel agency HIS, Seoul topped the list of overseas destinations among bookings for July 21 to Aug. 31. The top spot is normally held by Hawaii, but due to the weak yen that slipped to second place. Taipei came third, followed by Singapore and Bangkok, while Busan ranked seventh.
    Japanese travel agency JTB estimates that around 1.2 million Japanese people will travel abroad this summer, twice as many as last summer but less than 40 percent of the number seen before the coronavirus pandemic.
    Japanese tourists wearing school uniforms to emulate Korean TV stars take a selfie in an amusement park in Seoul on Monday.
    Korean pop culture remains a huge draw, particularly for young Japanese women. According to FlixPatrol, Korean TV dramas like "Celebrity," "King the Land" and "See You in My 19th Life" ranked among the top 10 dramas on Netflix in Japan this month.
    Most female Japanese tourists visit Korea individually rather than in tour groups, often traveling with a friend or two. "Around 30 percent are in their 20s and 40 percent are women traveling together," a HIS staffer said.
    But as the yen continues to weaken further, Japanese tourists are less likely to splurge on things like duty-free goods, which are now cheaper in Japan even when taxed.
    According to Lotte, Japanese tourists accounted for only around two percent of its duty-free sales to foreign customers in the last two months.
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