Asia Minute: South Korean Consumer Boycott Of Japan Heats Up

Sep 23, 2019

Japan and South Korea will begin discussions about a long-running trade dispute. The talks are part of a process set up by the World Trade Organization — but in South Korea, consumers are taking direct action. 

There are lots of ways to look at the ongoing trade and diplomatic dispute dividing South Korea and Japan — both governments track a lot of figures.

Export restrictions on certain items have kicked in for both countries. Rhetoric continues on both sides.

But South Korean consumers have stepped up a boycott of Japanese products in a way that’s not being matched in the other direction.

Sales of Japanese cars in South Korea fell by more than half last month compared to a year earlier, down 57 percent.

The number of South Koreans traveling to Japan fell by nearly half last month compared to a year earlier, down 48 percent.

Last year, South Korea was Japan’s number two tourism market, trailing only China.

There’s a sharp contrast when it comes to Japanese travel to South Korea. That actually rose by nearly 20 percent in July, the latest month that statistics are available.

Japan remains the second largest tourism market for South Korea after China.

But nothing illustrates the consumer boycott as much as sales of Japanese beer in South Korea.

A year ago last August, Japanese brewers shipped more than $7.5 million of beer to South Korea.

Last month, that plunged to less than a quarter of $1 million, taking Japan from the top exporter of foreign beer to South Korea to number 13.