Photo/IllutrationThe Beetle, a high-speed ferry connecting Fukuoka and Busan in South Korea, berths at Hakata Port in Fukuoka in July. (Yasuyuki Onaya)

FUKUOKA--A typhoon and strained ties with South Korea led to a sharp decrease in passenger numbers for trains and ferry services between Fukuoka and Busan during the Aug. 9-18 Bon holidays.

Fukuoka-based Kyushu Railway Co. (JR Kyushu) said passenger numbers on limited express trains on conventional lines were down by 6 percent from the same period a year earlier.

It blamed the drop on Typhoon No. 10 that pounded western Japan last week, and noted the situation was exacerbated by continuing strains in bilateral relations.

Demand for high-speed ferry services between Fukuoka and Busan fell 33 percent among Japanese passengers and 70 percent among Korean users from the same period of 2018.

Operator JR Kyushu Jet Ferry Inc. said lower user numbers were also due to canceled reservations by tour groups for sports events and school trips.

“We are hoping that by the time South Korea marks its Bon holidays in September, travelers will return,” said a senior official with the company. “In other years, ferry trips to and from South Korea were fully booked by now, but there are still vacancies this year.”

JR Kyushu said passenger numbers fell 5 percent on the Nippo Line, where 62 train services were canceled on Aug. 15 due to the typhoon. For the Nagasaki Line, the decrease came to 6 percent.

In a seemingly related development, the Kita-Kyushu city government announced Aug. 19 that an event to mark sister city ties in Incheon in South Korea in October had been canceled.

The cancellation is the latest in a series in which Japanese and South Koreans were scheduled to have exchanges.

Kita-Kyushu officials had always been invited to the annual event in Incheon in past years. But when they contacted the Incheon municipal government to inquire about the invitation they had anticipated, they were informed they were not invited this year due to a “review of the plan.”

In a similar development, an exchange program between college students in Gimhae in South Korea and officials with five companies in Kita-Kyushu was called off.

(This article was compiled from reports by Takako Fuchizawa and Eiji Iseki.)