Trade Dispute Between Korea and Japan

Korea and Japan have not been on good terms for a long time. Since ancient times, they have fought and cooperated at the same time. However, the conflict between the two countries hit a new peak due to Japan’s brutal colonization of Korea from 1910~1945. After World War II, Japan exited Korea and left the country ruined. Through redevelopment and a focus on expert-driven trade, South Korea eventually became an economic powerhouse, ranking 10th in the world in nominal GDP by 2020.

In July 2019, the conflict between the two rivals became an economy-related matter as Japan introduced export control measures to ban certain key products from entering South Korea. The export restrictions were on some critical materials for South Korea’s semiconductor and display industries, so many South Korean citizens became outraged due to the effect on the country’s economy. Infuriated Koreans responded with boycott campaigns against Japanese products sold in the country, and one of the most affected companies was Nintendo and their hit console-game Animal Crossing. South Korean users of the game supported the boycotts by writing the phrase “NO Japan” on their in-game maps. In the case of clothing retailer Uniqlo, one of the largest grossing stores, eventually withdrew from the market due to a sharp drop in sales after failing to withstand the boycott’s effects.

However, I think this boycott is very ironic. In the first place, such a boycott has no effect on hindering Japan’s overall economy. Rather, it is more likely that chains in South Korea and self-employed people who import Japanese products will suffer losses. It has just been said that Nintendo’s Animal Crossing had been targeted for boycott as it is clear that Japan made all game consoles and games, but the purpose of the boycott is not to buy the target product. However, purchasing both games and game consoles and boycotting them doesn’t make sense. Rather, it may be a trick by some politicians who try to create an anti-Japanese sentiment among the people in order to achieve their real objective – to get the support of people and their votes during election time.
By: Yoong Kim