Kim Sung-min, president of the Korea Mart Association, urged shop owners to boycott the distribution of Japanese products until Tokyo apologizes over the tightening of export controls for specialty materials and withdraws them. Other demonstrators held up signs that read, “Our supermarket does not sell Japanese products.”
South Korea is concerned that Japan’s strengthened export controls of photoresists and other sensitive materials that are mainly used for manufacturing semiconductors and display screens could potentially hurt its export-dependent economy.
Japan’s measure, which went into effect earlier this month, has stoked public anger in South Korea, where many believe Japan still has not fully acknowledged responsibility for atrocities committed during its colonial occupation of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
Thousands of South Koreans have signed petitions posted by citizens on the presidential office’s websites that called for boycotts of Japanese products and travel to Japan and for South Korea to skip next year’s Tokyo Summer Olympics. Retailers have also reported modest drops in the sales of Japanese beer.
“We will continue boycotting the consumption and distribution of Japanese products until Japan’s government and the Abe administration apologizes and withdraws its economic retaliation,” Kim said, referring to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Tokyo says the materials affected by the export controls can be sent only to trustworthy trading partners. Without presenting specific examples, Tokyo has questioned Seoul’s credibility in controlling the exports of arms and dual-use items that can be used both for civilian and military purposes.
South Korea says its export controls are working just fine and that Japan is retaliating against South Korean court rulings that ordered Japanese companies to compensate aging South Korean victims for forced labor during World War II.
South Korea plans to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization and will raise the issue at next week’s WTO General Council in Geneva, the country’s Trade Ministry said Sunday.
Last week, South Korea’s presidential office proposed an investigation by the United Nations Security Council or another international body to look into the export controls of both South Korea and Tokyo as it continues to reject Japanese claims that the South cannot be trusted to faithfully implement sanctions against North Korea.