Retail in Asia


Korean’s sentiment begins to thaw 3 years after the “No Japan” boycott

Korea’s positive sentiment toward Japan has returned to previously high levels last seen in 2019. The change was initially triggered by Japanese-imposed trade sanctions on Korea over historical conflicts, resulting in a boycott of Japanese products by South Koreans.

SEE ALSO: Aeon brings Japan’s Komeda’s Coffee to Hong Kong

After Japan placed export curbs on high-tech materials vital to Korean firms in July 2019, tension between the two countries heightened. It was widely seen as a retaliatory action against the South Korean government, which seized the assets of a Japanese company during World War II after refusing to compensate several victims. In response, Koreans boycotted Japanese brands such as Uniqlo and Asahi brewery.

Despite closing over 50 stores in Korea during the boycott campaign, Uniqlo swung back into the black last year, reflecting a warming sentiment. Additionally, Asahi has resumed its social media and YouTube advertising campaigns.

Source: Shutterstock

As tensions flared almost three years ago, a growing number of people from both countries are hoping for an improvement in relations. In the survey, 81.1 percent of Korean nationals said the two nations should mend their ties. Approximately 53.4 percent of Japanese respondents wanted a better relationship, with a 6.7 percentage point increase from last year. The percentage of Japanese who have a positive opinion of Korea has also risen to 30.4 percent from 25.4 percent last year.

A separate survey found that Korea has warmer feelings toward Japan than toward China. In a Hankook Research survey conducted on Aug. 21, China ranked second least popular among five major countries: the US, Japan, North Korea, and Russia.

The East Asia Institute and Genron NPO jointly released a report indicating that 30.6 percent of Koreans are favorable to Japan, the second highest rating since 2013, with the highest level reached in 2019. In addition, the 2022 figure was a significant increase from 2021 and 2020 figures of 20.5 percent and 12.3 percent, respectively.

SEE ALSO: Apple Pay to (finally) enter Korean market

There have been diplomatic conflicts between the neighbors over the past decade, and Korea terminated an intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan. Korean courts have not changed their stance on forced labor compensation, and Japan still imposes trade restrictions targeting Korea.