South Korea and Taiwan yesterday resumed regular commercial flights, severed 12 year ago in a diplomatic dispute, officials said.
The transportation ministry said a South Korean airliner was en route for Taipei for the first time since Taiwan cut air links in retaliation for Seoul's decision to forge diplomatic ties with China in 1992.
"The suspended Seoul-Taipei aviation links have been fully restored for the first time in 12 years," said Huh Yong-ran of the ministry's international aviation department.
South Korea's flag carrier Korean Air confirmed that the first regular flight, KE 691, had left Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, bound for Taipei at 9:25am yesterday.
"Although the number of passengers traveling between the two countries has decreased with the discontinuation of flights, Korean Air expects that the number of travelers will rapidly increase and surpass pre-1992 levels," the airline said in a statement.
Another South Korean carrier, Asiana Airlines, planned to resume flights later in the day.
Seoul and Taipei agreed in September to re-establish air links following negotiations which began last year, in order to meet the growing demand for regular air transportation.
Closer trade and tourism ties have since prompted the two sides to seek resumption of direct air links despite protests from Beijing.
The two sides had allowed irregular chartered flights to fill the transportation gap caused by the suspension of direct aviation links.