South Korea’s ‘Boycott Japan’ Campaign Rejects Japanese Cars, Beers, Movies

The Associated Press
AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

South Korea’s “Boycott Japan” movement is really taking off, according to reports that South Korean consumers are shunning everything from imported Japanese beer and snacks to vacations, cartoons, and pop stars.

Beer was among the first products to feel the pinch when South Koreans became enraged with Japan’s accusations that high-tech chemicals purchased by South Korean companies have been shipped clandestinely to North Korea. This, in turn, was the latest salvo in a feud dating back to Imperial Japan’s occupation of Korea in the World War Two era.

The Korea Times on Tuesday reported that South Koreans are now “boycotting anything Japanese” and merchants are largely comfortable with it, dismissing an estimated ten to 15 percent loss in revenues as doing their part to “protest unfair export restrictions.”

The latest trend is for South Koreans to cancel vacation trips to Japan and proudly post screenshots of their cancellation fees and flight rescheduling surcharges online. The Korea Times reports:

Twenty-nine-year-old Lee Sang-Won took a $100 hit for swapping his tickets to Japan for Taiwan instead. He says its a small price to pay.

“I think it’s important for us to show the Japanese government how we feel. The boycotts aren’t about how much economic damage we can do, but more about raising awareness and sending a message.”

The UK Guardian reported on Wednesday that South Korean gas stations are refusing to fill up Japanese cars and auto mechanics are refusing to service them. This naturally led to concerns that South Koreans might begin aggravating each other by taking the Boycott Japan idea to extremes. (Judging by sales data quoted in the Guardian, they also risk exposing the terrible truth that South Koreans greatly prefer Japanese beer to domestic brews).

Analysts warned this week the boycott could easily spread to car sales, as Japanese automakers Honda and Toyota command about 19 percent of the foreign car market in South Korea.

Things are getting so bad that South Koreans will not even buy tickets to a Japanese cartoon about a detective with a head shaped like a human posterior. The highly-reviewed Butt Detective: The Movie has been targeted by calls for a boycott, and the film’s Korean distributors felt obliged to cut back on promotional events.

The Korea Times speculated on Tuesday that Japanese pop star Mina might have missed out on a world tour because of mounting South Korean anger. Mina, a member of a Korean girl group called Twice, canceled her tour appearances due to “mental distress” and sudden anxiety about performing onstage, possibly a consequence of online harassment from K-pop fans who don’t want any J mixed in with their K.

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