Air Seoul (RS, Seoul Incheon) is closing half of its offices in Japan, and has suspended some flights in the wake of worsening relations between Japan and South Korea, which have resulted in plunging travel demand.

The South Korean low-cost carrier (LCC), which is based at Seoul Incheon, will shut offices in the prefectures of Hokkaido, Shizuoka, Toyama, Yamaguchi, Kumamoto and Okinawa after a significant fall in South Korean passengers led it to suspend flights connecting the six prefectures and Seoul in September, according to reports in Japan Times.

The spat between the two Asian countries is as a result of increased export controls by Japan, which is in response to a South Korean court ruling ordering Japanese companies to pay for wartime labour. South Korean visitors to Japan plummeted by 58% in September, and 48% in August, based on Japan Tourism Agency figures.

Up until September's route closures, the LCC had served Sapporo Chitose (9x weekly), Fukuoka, Okinawa Naha (both daily), Yonago (6x weekly), Toyama and Shizuoka (both 3x weekly) and Kumamoto (2x weekly) in Japan, all of which have now been suspended. The total weekly flights to Japan operated by Air Seoul was then 75, with over 15,000 weekly seats available.

When referring to the ch-aviation schedules module, the airline is currently only maintaining its flights from Incheon to Hiroshima Int'l (3x weekly), Osaka Kansai (2x daily), Takamatsu (3x weekly) and Tokyo Narita (2x daily).

Presumably to replace some of the lost Japanese capacity, the LCC has started a multiple daily service between Seoul Gimpo and Jeju in October, and has announced its intentions to fly to Hanoi and Nha Trang Cam Ranh in December, as well as destinations in China.

Other carriers recently culling flights between the two countries include Asiana Airlines (OZ, Seoul Incheon), Korean Air (KE, Seoul Incheon) and Peach Aviation (MM, Osaka Kansai).