SEOUL – A group of South Korean merchants Friday declared a boycott of Japanese products over the Takeshima islet dispute.
The boycott, which covers products including Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles, Uniqlo clothing, Nikon Corp. cameras and Asahi Breweries Ltd. beer, was organized to protest the participation of a Japanese government official for the first time at the Takeshima Day ceremony Feb. 22 in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture.
The event is held annually to assert Tokyo’s sovereignty claim to the barren outcroppings in the Sea of Japan that lie roughly halfway between the two nations. The islets, held by Japan from 1905 to 1945, are called Dokdo by South Korea, which took control of them in the 1950s.
The merchants’ group, which claims to have some 6 million members, announced the boycott in Seoul in front of Tapgol Park, the birthplace of the March 1st Movement against Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. Some of the participants hurled a barrage of eggs at a nearby board featuring the names of Japanese companies.
A senior member of the group said the boycott will continue until Japan reflects on and apologizes for its past Imperial aggression and atrocities, and also ends its current campaign to claim Takeshima as part of Shimane Prefecture.
However, rampant anti-Japanese movement is seen as unlikely to spread in the country — unlike events in China after Tokyo effectively nationalized the disputed Senkaku Islands last September — as many South Koreans apparently view the boycott with a mixture of skepticism and criticism.
In an editorial, the Seoul Shinmun newspaper pointed out that South Korea is heavily dependent on trade with Japan and should not foolishly risk provoking anti-South Korean sentiment among Japanese consumers.
On the streets of Seoul, a 22-year-old woman who was handed one of the group’s fliers said she often buys Japanese sweets, and also warned that the campaign could spark a retaliatory boycott of South Korean products in Japan.
Meanwhile, a liquor distributor in the city reported no decline in orders of Asahi beer, and the manager of a yakitori eatery said it would continue to offer Asahi on tap. The manager added that he has no major worries that the boycott could gather momentum and cause a drop in patrons.