Effective this week, Japan began quarantining all arrivals from South Korea and China for two weeks; nullified short-term visas issued in those two countries until the end of March, and announced it will not issue new visas.
In response, South Korea has suspended tourism visa waivers for Japanese travelers and declared those visas issued already will be no longer valid effective Monday.
How will this impact Seoul, Tokyo relations?
Our foreign affairs correspondent Oh Jung-hee is live in the studio.
Good to see you, Junghee.
Good evening, Conn-young.
So, tell us how South Korea came to impose its own entry restrictions on Japan.
Well, of course, Tokyo slapped these measures first on South Korea.
Seoul saw that Japan had political motives.
Prime Minister Abe, yesterday, acknowledged that it was, after all, a political decision.
And one thing that South Korea is most frustrated about is the fact that Tokyo didn't let Seoul know in advance, just like when it slapped export curbs against Seoul last year.
After checking media reports on Thursday, a number of officials at Seoul's Foreign Ministry spoke to their counterparts at Tokyo's Foreign Ministry, asking them what will happen but they all got different answers and were not clearly explained.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said Monday that Japan had told Seoul in advance, but that's not the case.
South Korea's Presidential Office expressed deep regret today, once more.
"We clarify this once again. Japan unilaterally made its announcements without any prior consultations or notifications. When we detected the move and asked Japan about it on Thursday, Tokyo denied it. Plus, Japan did not tell us anything about visa suspensions before or after Abe's announcement to the press."
Despite Seoul's vow to slap reciprocal countermeasures against Tokyo, it appears South Korea has, so far, taken rather reserved measures. Is that not so?
Conn-young, South Korea suspended its visa-waiver program for Japanese travelers and visas that were previously issued are no longer valid the same as what Tokyo did.
But, if we look at the screen, Seoul is not banning entry of any Japanese citizens, while Japan is on those coming from Daegu and many areas within Gyeongsangbuk-do Province.
South Korea did not limit airports where planes from Japan can land, while Japan left only two, Narita and Kansai, open.
Seoul is not quarantining anyone from Japan, but are letting them enter through a special procedure, while travelers from South Korea have to get themselves quarantined for 14 days upon arrival.
So entry restrictions from both sides took effect starting Monday.
Seoul's main gateway, Incheon International Airport, was empty and there were far fewer flights than last week.
On average, there are nearly 10-thousand South Korean people going to Japan on a daily basis.
But as all flights between South Korea and Japan were cancelled, except for those heading to Japan's Narita and Kansai, only 3 South Koreans went to Japan on Monday.
One of those South Korean passengers was actually blocked from using public transport at the airport yesterday, so the South Korean Consulate offered a vehicle.
The number of travelers coming to South Korea from Japan plunged as well.
Daily numbers dropped by 90-percent to just over 5-hundred from over 47-hundred.
Jung-hee, all these developments come on top of a prolonged diplomatic row between Seoul and Tokyo.
How will Seoul-Tokyo relations move from here on?
The two countries' relations have been icy, with complex issues like wartime forced labor, export restrictions and bilateral intel-sharing pact GSOMIA all intertwined.
Pundits say, the conflict between South Korea and Japan shouldn't escalate any further.
The current entry restrictions hurt both sides as they are interdependent on each other in a range of areas including the economy and tourism.
An expert I spoke to suggested that, because Japan's entry restrictions are to last until the end of March, the Seoul-Tokyo quarantine spat should also end then.
"It's clear that Japan had political considerations, but the most important thing for Japan would have been containing the spread of COVID-19. It's crucial that this row ends in a month and bilateral exchanges resume as soon as possible. Seoul-Tokyo relations would get even more difficult once it meets the forced labor issue, so the two governments would have to separate these issues."
Hopefully, by the month's end so that nations can all joins hands in battling the immediate threate: halting what's quickly becoming a pandemic, COVID-19.
Great coverage, Jung-hee. Thank you.