Boat Service Resumes Between Tsushima and Busan, South Korea

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Visitors arrive at Hitakatsu Port in Tsushima, Nagasaki Prefecture, after disembarking a ship from Busan, South Korea, on Saturday.

The international sailing route connecting Tsushima, Nagasaki Prefecture, and Busan, South Korea, reopened Saturday after nearly three years amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the time being, two South Korean companies are each scheduled to operate a round trip on Saturdays and Sundays. On Mondays, only services departing from the island off Nagasaki are available.

The distance between Tsushima and Busan is only about 50 kilometers. The island had been a popular destination among South Koreans for sightseeing, fishing and trekking.

“I want to make efforts to promote our tourism industry,” Tsushima Mayor Naoki Hitakatsu said.

According to the Tsushima city government, South Korean tourists who visit the island through the international sailing route surpassed 350,000 in 2017, and the total amount of their consumer spending in that year was about ¥8 billion. The amount was equivalent to a quarter of the city government’s fiscal 2023 initial general account budget.

Though the number of South Korean visitors rose to a record high at about 410,000 in 2018, the number plummeted in 2019, as Japan-South Korea diplomatic ties worsened.

Since April 2020 in the wake of spread of infections with the novel coronavirus, all services on the international sailing route were suspended.

Around 10 a.m. Saturday, the first passenger ship the route reopened arrived at Hitakatsu Port in Tsushima. From the vessel, about 100 passengers from South Korean disembarked.

“This is my first time in Tsushima,” said a woman from Seoul in her 60s. “I have been interested in what kind of island this is and I want to eat udon.”

The second passenger ship arrived around 12:30 p.m.

The international route opened in July 1999. From Busan, two areas of the city of Tsushima had been served, stopping at Hitakatsu Port in the north and Izuhara Port in the south. During its peak, a total of six Japanese and South Korean companies operated on the route.