Korean Boycott of Japanese Goods

Why are Koreans suddenly saying “NO” to Japanese products? Will these boycotts have the desired effect of worsening the Japanese economy, or will it backfire on Korea?

The “No Japan” campaign is growing in Korea. Although Korea has benefited from trade with many Japanese companies for years, the majority of Koreans are now participating in this boycott, by avoiding Japanese products. Koreans also revealed their anti-Japanese sentiments by publically protesting, posting boycott pictures on social media, and canceling vacations to Japan. 

Although underlying tensions between these two countries have existed for over a hundred years, the tension peaked when Japan imposed economic sanctions on Korean semiconductor industries on July 1, 2019. Samsung, a Korean company, is one of the most successful semiconductor companies in the world, and the Japanese suddenly stopped exporting chemicals such as fluorinated polyimide and photoresists to Korea. It will be hard for Samsung to maintain its position without Japan’s supply of these materials since it had been its main source.  

On August 2, Japan ultimately removed South Korea from its “whitelist,” which is Japan’s list of trade “ally” countries. Unable to import supplies that are essential to the semiconductor industry from Japan, Korea is suffering economically.  

Triggered by the export regulation, Koreans initiated a widespread, nation-wide boycott, with quite tremendous results. Flights to Japan on the three major Korean airlines saw huge cancellations rates, with 75.7%, 68.9%, and 48.5%, respectively. This drastic increase in cancellations seems to be having a direct impact on the Japanese economy, especially on hotels and shopping centers in popular tourist sites. 

The sales from Uniqlo, one of the most popular Japanese retail companies in Korea, decreased by 30% within the first month of the boycott. The most popular imported beer in Korea, Asahi beer, which is Japanese, dropped to number seven.  

Many Koreans, especially Japanese restaurant owners, are being negatively impacted by the boycott. Even if these restaurants are not actually Japanese-run or reliant on Japanese imports, people are not visiting them simply because of the style of food they sell. Moreover, Korean owners of Japanese franchises, like 7-Eleven and Mini Stop, are also being hurt by the boycotts. 

Experts suggest that people need to maintain a balanced approach to the boycott. It is difficult to directly damage the Japanese economy through boycotts alone, and they could also hurt Korean businesses instead. It remains uncertain whether future relations between Korea and Japan will continue down this path. Given the size of the Korean and Japanese economies, people should keep an eye on it.  

Works Cited: 

Kasulis, Kelly. “South Korea’s ‘No Japan’ Boycott Is New. But the Wounds Are Old.” Public Radio International, Public Radio International, 12 Aug. 2019, www.pri.org/stories/2019-08-12/south-korea-s-no-japan-boycott-new-wounds-are-old.

McCurry, Justin. “South Korean Boycott of Japanese Goods Hits Beer and Carmakers.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 4 Sept. 2019, www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/04/south-korea-boycott-japanese-goods-beer-car-sales.

Irene Jung 2019 Copyright

Irene Jung

Irene Jung is a three-year junior from South Korea. As a writer, she hopes to deliver a variety of news to the Blair community.