Koreans rush to return to Japan as borders are opened
Japan throws open its borders to individual tourists Tuesday, and Koreans are rushing to book tickets.
For the first time in two years and seven months, Japan is lifting its suspension of visa-free entry for 68 regions and countries, including the United States and Korea.
Koreans are able to stay in Japan for up to 90 days without a visa for tourism, visiting relatives and business.
From Tuesday, Japan is also lifting a daily cap of 50,000 arrivals. Travelers are no longer limited to package tours.
Antivirus measures will also be simplified.
To enter, visitors must have received at least three shots of a vaccine approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). If they have not, they must present a negative Covid-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure.
Visitors are not required to take a Covid test after arrival or go into quarantine. In the event of a suspected Covid-19 symptoms, the Japanese government recommends travelers to get tested and isolate at an accommodation designated by the government if the results are positive.
Japan has always been a popular destination for Koreans due to its closeness, cheap flights and many cultural things to enjoy. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Japan was the favorite destination for Korean travelers. The average number of domestic tourists visiting Japan reached 7 million in 2017 and 2018.
However, a boycott movement against Japan, the so-called the “No Japan” movement, arose after Tokyo restricted exports of semiconductor materials as a retaliatory measure against a Korean court ruling in 2019 ordering Japanese companies to compensate the Korean forced labor victims during World War II. In March 2020, tourism was completely cut off due to the spread of Covid-19.
Korea’s largest travel agency, Hana Tour, said bookings for overseas travel packages from Sept. 1 to 22 increased by 173.7 percent compared to that of August. Bookings to Japan increased by 776.6 percent from the previous month.
Trips to Japan accounted for 36.1 percent of reservations made in September.
Another travel agency, Very Good Tour, saw its sales of Japan trips rise by 500 percent in September from the previous month.
Covid cases in Korea are falling steadily.
New Covid-19 infections fell below 10,000 on Monday for the first time in more than three months, hitting 8,981, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). The decrease in cases were partly due to fewer tests conducted over the extended weekend.
There were 311 Covid-19 patients in serious or critical condition, rising by six from the previous day.
Twenty-three more people died of the virus, bringing the death toll to 28,698.
The country will start administering Moderna’s new Covid-19 vaccine designed to protect against the Omicron variant from Tuesday.
The vaccine, which is responsive to both earlier coronavirus strains and Omicron BA.1, will be given as a booster first to people at higher risk, such as the elderly and immunocompromised.
BY SEO JI-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]