Since last July, you may have frequently seen #BOYCOTTJAPAN and #NOJAPAN on Korean social networks. The relationship between Korea and Japan has always been precarious because of their history. Koreans’ #BOYCOTTJAPAN started for almost the same reason, history.
Last October, the Korean Supreme Court ordered a Japanese steel company who exploited Korean workers during the Japanese colonial period to pay each Korean victim of forced labor at that time a 100 million won in damages. The Japanese government lodged an appeal, but the Korean government ignored it.
Last July, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry excluded three chemicals from the export permit, which applies only to Korea. A few experts believe the reason for the change is Japan was upset because the Korean government ignored its request for negotiation about the Supreme Court verdict. The critical thing with the changed export permit is that the three items are core chemicals of the Korean semiconductor industry.
Korean people got upset that Japan won’t apologize to historical victims, they even considered economic retaliation. Some angry, Korean people started a ‘NO JAPAN’ campaign, and in turn the Japanese government ridiculed the Korean people and the campaign. In addition, the Japanese government thought it would finish very soon. However, Japan’s reaction just added fuel to the fire of Korean rage. Against all expectations, the whole situation keeps getting worse.
Koreans declared a boycott of Japanese products, and now, a lot of Koreans are participating in boycotting Japan. Many people have stopped going to Japanese brand shops. A few Koreans staged one-man demonstrations in front of Japanese brand shops. Korean corporations are also joining the boycott. When you go to some large retailers, you can see stickers letting you know which products are from Korea, not Japan.
Even students have been active in the campaign. Recently, a video uploaded to a social network site showed some Korean students throwing away their Japanese stationary items in a Korean school. The respond was not good. Critics said the boycott campaign was too extreme. They said we don’t have to waste Japanese products we have, just don’t buy and use them anymore.
Moreover, lots of Koreans canceled trips to Japan for their summer vacation. In the middle of July, Tabata Hiroshi, the Chief of Japan’s National Tourist Organization said, “Koreans are usually independent tourists, so they don’t have an effect on Japan.” However, he was wrong. The governor of Yamaguchi in Saga Prefecture said the town has been in a difficult situation because the number of Korean tourists has declined. There were flights from Seoul for Saga every day and from Busan for Saga four times a week, but the airline is going to reduce the flights owing to the decreasing demand.
The Korean government wants to resolve this dangerous relationship, so it made a proposal to the World Trade Organization, but the reaction from Japan was not positive.
Some said this whole situation was caused because Korea ignored Japan’s actions for many years in exchange for money. The reason no Japanese people or companies were prosecuted before is because of a reparation agreement between Korea and Japan in 1965. Korea received 300 million dollars as compensation money from Japan.
On the other hand, Yuji Hosaka, a Japanese professor at Sejong University, said the reparation agreement on between Korea and Japan was just an extinction of nation protection, not right of individual claims. Therefore, the Korean Supreme Court is reasonable, and it has legal justification. The Supreme Court asked the Japanese steel company to pay damages for its illegal acts, but the company is denying any obligation because of the 1965 reparation agreement. In addition, he said at the conclusion, Korea should report this situation and the events leading up to it to the rest of the world.
The boycott which started last July is still on going. The relationship between Korea and Japan continues to get worse. Each government held press conferences for only journalists of the other country. This situation is considered differently between Korean people. Some Koreans think the boycott is going well and it shows our will more completely, but others are worrying about it. They think, of course, the Japanese government has to apologize to Korean victims but economic retaliation is not good reaction. However, Korea and Japan are geographically and economically inseparable. If you carry the situation too far, the Korean economy will be worse. You are at liberty to say and do what you want but don’t push others to change their behavior, they asked.
:A Korean boycotting Japan
Q. Please you introduce yourself briefly.
I’m Lee Ji-min. My major is tourism management. I’m a fourth-year student in Keimyung university.
Q. How was your feeling when you heard the bad situation between Korea and Japan?
At first, I didn’t think it was serious. But over time, based on the information reported in the news, I think that things are getting worse. And I was worried about traveling because I was planning a trip to Japan.
Q. Why did you cancel your trip to Japan?
I wanted to go to Japan because I like Janpanese mood and landscape, so I booked flight tickets in January. In additional, I had made all the travel plans with my friend. However, there was no signs of improvement between the two countries over time. Even more, I saw a lot of bad information about traveling to Japan on SNS. So, I canceled my trip to Japan.
Q. What do you think about the Korean boycott of Japan?
I think the Korean boycott is one way to improve relations with Japan. But if the Korean boycott is prolonged, it will be difficult to improve relations between the two countries. Therefore, I think the improvement between the two countires should be made as soon as possible.
The relationship between Korea and Japan is not getting better, and Japanese who love Korea and Koreans who love Japan are worrying about the problem. Other people around the world have also become concerned about this endless conflict. Hopefully, this situation can be resolved without any more damage.