중앙데일리

U.S. firms stress local roots after boycott calls

Feb 21,2003
The anti-American sentiment that rose in Korea following the deaths of two girls hit by a U.S. armored vehicle last year led several American companies to highlight their ties to Korea and their local philanthropy.
“All managers and employees at McDonald’s Korea are Korean,” says an advertisement for McDonald’s Korea celebrating its 15th anniversary of operations. McDonald’s Korea is a joint venture between McDonald’s Corp. and two local companies, Shin MC Co. and McKim Corp.
The half-page advertisement, published recently in major newspapers, describes the fast-food chain’s charity works, including a 116-million-won ($96,000) fund for undernourished children in Korea.
It features a photograph of its senior executives serving McDonald’s wares at a World Children’s Day event on Nov. 20. The ad also includes a photograph of one of the firm’s 81 handicapped employees on the job. The ad notes that McDonald’s was the first fast food restaurant chain to hire a mentally and physically disabled person as an employee.
After the acquittal in December of the two U.S. soldiers who were driving the vehicle that struck and killed the two girls in June, a move to boycott American firms doing business here spread across the Internet.
More than 500 Web sites posted calls to shun U.S. products and services, especially high-profile businesses like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola.
The movement was a part of other expressions of anti-U.S. sentiment such as candlelight demonstrations and calls for changes in the rules governing the status of American troops here.
Most American fast food franchises and other American companies in Korea said that the boycott had not resulted in any serious erosion of their sales. If there was any effect, they said, they did not have a way of assessing the impact.
A marketing official at Shin MC Co. said the boycott attempt had not affected McDonald’s sales, but she was also careful to emphasize the firm’s McKorean status. “Although we are a joint venture with an American company, all employees at McDonald’s Korea are Korean. McDonald’s Korea is making great efforts to become a more local company,” she said, citing menu additions such as kimchi burgers and bulgogi burgers that appeal to local tastes.
“We have highlighted McDonald’s Korea’s fundraising and charities in commemorating our 15th anniversary,” she added.
The fast-food company also donates 30 million won a year to help children with facial defects like cleft palates obtain free reconstructive surgery. Thirty children have had the surgery so far; the firm says 20 more will be treated annually.
Other U.S. firms here were not as sanguine as McDonald’s. According to a survey in January by the JoongAng Ilbo and the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, 31 percent of American firms operating in Korea said anti-American sentiment had affected their sales and business here, but most were reluctant to speak openly about the extent of the damage.
Coca-Cola Korea Co. seemed to hint at a sales decline, although managers there did not put the blame on the recent “Yankee-go-home” sentiment. An American manager at Coca-Cola Korea was quoted as saying, “If the sales drop were a result of anti-Americanism, it would be regrettable.”
Another official said the recent sales downturn was just a seasonal phenomenon, but was also eager to stress Coke’s long ties with Korea. She said the company produces its vaunted secret-formula syrup here and uses a Korean advertising firm.
She added that Coca-Cola Korea and Coca-Cola Bottling Co. employs about 3,000 workers here, more than most Korean firms of the same size.
An American lawyer here also stressed U.S. firms’ efforts to fit into the local economy. “The members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea employ approximately 3 million Korean citizens in their businesses and they are essentially Korean companies,” said Jeffrey D. Jones, an attorney at Kim & Chang and a former president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea. “Their employees are Korean and they are managed by Koreans.”
Since Coca-Cola Korea started producing a range of products here in 1968, a spokeswoman for the firm said, it has staged numerous charitable events and sponsored sports teams and a soccer school.
Other fast food chains such as Burger King, KFC and Pizza Hut said the boycott attempts had not been a major problem for them. An official at Doosan Corp., the local operator of KFC and Burger King restaurants, said although there might have been a drop in sales because of the boycott, the decrease could not be estimated.
The official said Doosan has also localized its operations, for example by using domestic chickens at its KFC restaurants.


by Lim Jae-un


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