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S. Korea airline cancels charter flights to Japan amid frayed ties

An airplane providing round-trip charter flights from South Korea is seen at Izumo Airport, Shimane Prefecture. (Photo courtesy of the Shimane Prefectural Government)

MATSUE, Japan (Kyodo) -- A South Korean airline has decided to cancel charter flights to a western Japanese city due to falling demand for package tours as Tokyo and Seoul have found themselves increasingly at odds over wartime issues, local government officials said Friday.

Six round-trip flights from Gimpo airport in South Korea to Izumo airport in Shimane Prefecture from Saturday to July 25 will be canceled.

The prefectural government said Korea Express Air has notified it of the plan. "We have heard from a travel agency that there are repercussions such as tour cancellations and difficulties to attract customers in the wake of worsening Japan-South Korean relations," Shimane Gov. Tatsuya Maruyama said in a statement.

Maruyama said the prefecture is hoping for an early resumption of charter flights from South Korea.

The 50-seat plane's average occupancy rate was 50.3 percent between June 6, when the first charter flight left from South Korea, and July 11, with a total of 402 people traveling, according to the prefectural government.

The seats were all purchased by South Korean travel agencies and reserved exclusively by travelers from the international airport.

The airline's charter flights were scheduled through late October, with an aim to turn them into regular service thereafter.

Japan-South Korea relations are at their lowest ebb in many years, particularly over what Seoul sees as Tokyo's reluctance to atone for wartime forced labor.

Japan and South Korea agreed in the past that the issue of compensation was resolved under a 1965 treaty which established diplomatic ties between the countries.

But South Korean court decisions last year ordered Japanese companies to compensate victims of forced labor during Japan's 1910 to 1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

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