SNA (Tokyo) – The April 16 tragedy of the MV Sewol in the territorial waters of South Korea has been exercising an impact on the local economy of Tottori Prefecture. This has occurred mainly due to the fact that the accident, in which more than three hundred people appear to have lost their lives, has deeply undermined the South Korean public’s faith in the safety of ferry boats. Tottori Prefecture, which faces the Korean Peninsula across the Sea of Japan, heavily promotes itself to South Korean tourists, and one of the main links through which tourist groups come to Japan is the DBS Cruise Ferry, which links Tottori’s Sakaiminato with Korea’s Donghae, as well as Russia’s Vladivostok.
The company which operates the ferry service reports multiple cancellations from South Korean tour groups, all of which seem to be linked to the safety fears raised by the Sewol tragedy.
Moreover, a K-Pop festival planned to be held in Yonago City on May 18 has been cancelled under the assumption that public turnout from the Korean Peninsula would fall well below what had earlier been envisioned. Also, some people felt that going ahead with the festival might appear to be in bad taste in light of the atmosphere of national mourning that now grips South Korea.
Many of Tottori’s tourist attractions, such as the Hanakairo Flower Park, are marketed directly to South Korea and pull in Korean visitors by the bus load.
Local officials and businesspeople reckon that a substantial negative impact on Korean tourism in the prefecture will be evident well into the summer months, if not beyond.
Update on May 13 at 16:00
On May 10, DBS Cruise Ferry conducted a full-scale disaster drill aboard its passenger ferry Eastern Dream (11,480 tons, 480 passenger capacity) in order to test its emergency procedures and to restore public confidence in the safety of their transport service. The drill scenario involved a fire breaking out on the ship while it was at sea, requiring a quick evacuation of passengers. Tottori prefectural government officials were invited to observe the drill.
The Eastern Dream captain told the local media that the success of the drill demonstrated that his ship was operated in a manner fully consistent with international safety standards.
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