First Flight Before “Normalization” between Japan and Korea

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Diplomatic normalization between the Republic of Korea and Japan came in 1965. The Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea was signed on June 22, 1965, to establish a basic relationship between Japan and the Republic of Korea following liberation from Japanese occupation in 1945. It took almost twenty years just to begin normalizing the relationship between these two neighboring countries. 

However, Japan Air Lines (JAL) inaugurated a flight between Seoul and Tokyo more than a full year before the Treaty was signed. JAL made a maiden flight from Tokyo to Seoul on April 15, 1964. Why would any flight between these “still hostile” countries be even contemplated at all? How could this be possible even before the normalization treaty?

Figure 1: FFC from Tokyo to Seoul

Well, the Olympic Games made that possible. There were other numerous political and economic factors leading up to “normalization” in 1965, but the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo had a ripple effect felt all around the Far East. In the ancient Greek Olympics, the war was said to stop so that everyone could go to the Olympics if any of the city states were at war when the Olympics started. So I guess you could argue that the spirit of the ancient Olympics was alive and well in 1964. The Tokyo Summer Olympics were held from Oct. 10 to Oct. 24, 1964.

JAL created a nice cachet showing a lady in a traditional Japanese kimono, and the Tokyo post office also created a commemorative postmark for the occasion (Fig. 1), properly back-stamped on April 15, Seoul, Korea.

Figure 2: FFC Seoul to Tokyo

On the same date, a maiden flight from Seoul to Tokyo was made, and JAL commemorated the flight with a cachet showing a lady in a traditional Korean hanbok (Fig. 2). However, I do not think that the Korean postal authority was in a celebrating mood for the first flight as there was no commemorative postmark on the returned flight from Seoul. The cover was properly back-stamped on April 15, Tokyo AP, Japan.


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