North East Asia

Japan, China and South Korea are not the most comfortable bedfellows, but this triumvirate represent a major economic powerhouse and are key UK trade partners, says Colin Ellson

North East Asia

NORTH EAST ASIA is like many a marriage. The core nations of Japan, South Korea and China are bound together by a shared past but divided by their differing perceptions of history. Coexisting and interdependent, theirs is a love-hate relationship.

Not that such tensions should deter the UK business visitor. For whatever their differences, the triad of countries, with a combined population of 1.5 billion people, sets them aside in the pursuit of trade.

They present a united front of skilled and flexible work forces, with even the leading market of China undergoing transition to a market-driven economy.

This has benefited Britain, with exports to China doubling since 2010 to some £13billion, mainly in pharmaceuticals and financial services, and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) says there is potential for more.

Japan’s output has also slowed but is expected to rebound. The UK has a foot in the door, with 450 British companies present, including Topshop, Burberry, and Roll-Royce. In addition, the UK exports £10billion-worth of goods and services each year. Again, UKTI says this can be improved.

Meanwhile, the value of UK exports to South Korea rose a whopping 57 per cent last year, principally in petroleum products, nuclear reactors, pharmaceuticals and iron and steel

All the destinations in our regional focus can be reached direct from the UK except Osaka, and here there are good connections from Europe and the Middle East. Steer clear of the 'marital' squabbles in Northeast Asia and it should enhance your chances of finding the right partners.

Tokyo
From London Heathrow, British Airways flies to Tokyo Narita and Tokyo Haneda daily, the latter also served by Japan Airlines and ANA on a daily basis. Lufthansa offers a similar frequency to both Japanese gateways from Frankfurt and has a daily flight to Haneda from Munich; Finnair operates seven flights a week to Narita out of Helsinki; Air France serves Narita daily and Haneda 12 times a week from Paris Charles de Gaulle; and KLM flies daily out of Amsterdam Schiphol to Narita. Gulf carriers Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airways provide frequent connections from Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha respectively.

Osaka
There are no direct services from the UK to Osaka. Instead, catch daily onward flights with Lufthansa from Frankfurt, Air France and KLM from Paris CDG and Schiphol respectively, or Finnair departing Helsinki. A further alternative is flying with Emirates or Qatar Airways from their Gulf bases, both serving Osaka daily

Seoul
Korean Air, British Airways and Asiana all fly from Heathrow to Seoul daily. The same frequency is offered by Lufthansa from Frankfurt, the carrier also flying six times a week out of Munich. Air France and KLM operate daily from their European hubs, while Finnair departs daily from Helsinki. The main Gulf airlines also offer one-stop options.

Beijing
Air China operates to Beijing twice a day from Heathrow, with BA providing a daily service. Lufthansa departs once a day from both Frankfurt and Munich, and Finnair provides the same frequency out of Helsinki. Air France has 13 flights a week to Beijing from Paris CDG, and KLM flies daily out of Schiphol. Alternatively, connect with a flight from the Gulf onboard Emirates, Etihad or Qatar Airways.

Shanghai
From Heathrow, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and China Eastern serve Shanghai daily. Lufthansa flies twice-daily from Frankfurt and daily from Munich; Air France offers 13 services a week departing Paris CDG; KLM has 12 flights a week from Schiphol; and Finnair operates daily out of Helsinki. The big three Gulf airlines also fly regularly to Shanghai.

Getting Around
After a flying time from the UK of 12 hours or more, business visitors will be relieved to learn travel within the region is relatively quick. Japanese domestic routes are served by ANA and Japan Airlines, supplemented by budget airlines such as Skymark and Peach. Or travel on the 320km/hr 'Bullet' train – the journey from Tokyo to Osaka takes about two hours, compared to one hour by air. The Chinese rail network is hardly practical due to the vast distances involved. Instead, fly with Air China,

China Eastern and China Southern, or a low-cost airline, including Shanghai Airlines, Spring and West Air. South Korea is compact, with domestic links offered by Korean Air, together with budget airlines like Air Busan, Air Incheon and Eastar Jet. Those on a multi-destination itinerary will find flying between Japan, China and South Korea is simple, with journey times of under three hours.

Selected flight information supplied by aviation intelligence specialist OAG.com

Information correct at time of publication: June 2015