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Aversion to things Korean spreads in Japan

Samsung logos obscured on phones, anti-Korean books sell

Apr 30,2015
The effects of the Shinzo Abe administration’s soured feelings toward Korea are being reflected in Japanese society and even marketing strategies.

Concealing Korea links and even openly criticizing its closest Asian neighbor is becoming a marketing strategy in Japan as Seoul and Tokyo’s relations remain in the deep freeze because of ongoing tensions over history and territorial issues.

For instance, Samsung’s new smartphones the Galaxy S6 and curved-display Galaxy Edge S6 are being promoted in Japan minus the brand name Samsung. The manufacturer’s name is being left out of advertisements and even removed from the product itself.

The S6 model launched this month does not have the Samsung logo on the front or back. It was replaced with the carrier name and called the “Docomo Galaxy” or “au Galaxy S6 Edge.” NTT Docomo and KDDI au are Japan’s leading mobile operators.

Japan was the last country in which the Galaxy S5 was launched in 2014.

“Docomo removing Galaxy from its strategic line-up in 2013 had something to do with the Japanese government’s influence,” an industry insider said. “But now it’s not just government pressure but public sentiment as well.”

The general public is increasingly shying away from Korean imports, analysts say.

Over the past year, there has been an increase in the number of people who have studied or worked in Korea. But at the same time, the press has been characterizing Korea as “a country that cannot get along with Japan.”

Anti-Korean books are also selling well in Japan.

Katsumi Murotani, a former Jiji Press Seoul bureau chief, wrote the non-fiction No. 1 best-seller “Foolish Koreans” and sold over 200,000 copies. Several other anti-Korea or anti-China books have made it onto the top 10 new nonfiction best-seller list over the past year.

A bookstore in Tokyo has a corner dedicated to “A Very Strange Country, Korea.”

On April 18, an Asahi Shimbun poll asked 3,000 respondents their thoughts on the prime minister visiting the Yasukuni Shrine and criticizing Korea and China.

Nearly a third, or 31 percent of respondents, said they accepted it, while 55 percent said they didn’t.

Likewise, 57 percent of people surveyed said that Japan had already done enough to apologize and compensate colonized countries, up from 36 percent in a similar poll in 2006. Only 24 percent said that it was not enough, down from 51 percent in 2006.

In December 2013, the Shinzo Abe administration for the first time since the end of World War II released a National Security Strategy and created a new National Security Council.

In this strategy, South Korea was not included in countries that shared fundamental principles with Japan such as freedom and democracy, which is how Seoul used to be described by the Japanese government. Korea was listed below Australia and India in the list of its preferred partners.

The older generation, in their 40s, 50s and 60s, can recall the “Japan as No. 1” era, and they received anti-Korean messages through books and the press. The younger generation are reached by anti-Korean nationalistic netizens, or netouyo, a Japanese slang coming “netto,” or Internet, and “uyoku,” meaning right-wing.

“Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s lashing out at Korea is a problem,” said Jiro Yamaguchi, a political science professor at Hosei University, “but the bigger issue is that the number of people empathizing with those sentiments has increased.

“This is because although 70 years have passed since World War II and the generation that experienced the war has become a minority, Japan has not passed on the facts and knowledge properly to the younger generations.”

An executive of a top Japanese media company said, “In the case of Germany, an International Military Tribunal (the Nuremberg War Crime Trials) punished war criminals and then clearly settled issues through domestic law, but in the case of Japan, we didn’t do that.

Through this, right-wingers purport that the Tokyo Tribunal war criminals are not criminals under international law,” which can persuade the generations too young to remember the war.

The right-wing government’s influence over the media has grown, leading to concerns about media censorship and self-censorship in Japan.

Last August, the Asahi Shimbun buckled under pressure from the government and retracted articles about the testimony of Seiji Yoshida, who claimed to have kidnapped Korean women from Jeju Island and forced them to work at wartime Japanese military brothels. The Asahi said his testimony could not be confirmed. Yoshida died in 2000. This prompted the Sankei Shimbun to criticize the Asahi and also Korea, and suggested Korea’s claims about women forced to work in brothels before and during the war were exaggerated.

Asahi subscriptions dropped 200,000 between last September and October, while Sankei’s increased by 60,000. The circulation of another conservative paper, the Yomiuri Shimbun, increased by 120,000 during that period.

Last month, Japanese television commentator Shigeaki Kogamade made international headlines for holding up a sign reading “I am not Abe” ? a play on the “I am Charlie” slogan of solidarity for journalists at French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo killed in January ? on a live TV news program.

Koga, a former Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry official, said it would be his last day on the show because he was pressured by TV Asahi executives to stop appearing on its program. Koga had made comments criticizing the prime minister and the deteriorating freedom of the press under the Abe administration and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

BY KIM HYUN-KI [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]


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