Tourism between Korea and Japan reached historic numbers last year despite worsening spats between the two governments that increasingly seem to leave their populations cold.
Some 2.95 million Japanese tourists visited Korea last year, up 27.6 percent from the previous year and the largest increase since 2009, according to the Korea Tourism Organization on Sunday. Kim Man-jin of the KTO credited warming relations with North Korea, which eased the fears of more timid Japanese tourists.
At the same time about 7.54 million Koreans visited Japan, an all-time record, mainly encouraged by the weak yen.
Worsening spats between the two governments over historical issues increasingly seem to bypass their younger populations, who see more similarities than differences between the neighbors.
Duty-free sales here also jumped thanks to a growing number of Japanese visitors this year. Duty-free sales to Japanese tourists increased even amid a furious tiff between the two governments over Japanese spy planes' flybys over Korean warships in the East Sea that started late last year.
Sales at Lotte's flagship duty-free shop in Seoul's Sogong-dong soared between Jan. 1 and 20, up more than 30 percent on-year. Those at Shinsegae near the Myeong-dong shopping district to Japanese tourists also jumped 53 percent on-year.
Travelers walk at Lotte's duty-free shop in Seoul's Sogong-dong on Sunday.