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Korea’s continuing boycott shocks Japan experts

Aug 01,2019
As Koreans continue to boycott Japanese products in response to Tokyo’s export restrictions against Seoul, a local high-level government official who returned from a trip to Japan last week told the JoongAng Ilbo that it appeared Japanese experts were taken aback by Koreans’ mass outrage.

“They were like, ‘What on earth?’” said the source, who wished to speak on the condition of anonymity, as he relayed the reactions from Japanese diplomatic pundits he met during his recent trip.

“The Japanese government pulled out a card to retaliate [against the Korean government], only to see members of the Korean public react with fury, and I think that surprised many Japanese scholars” because it was unexpected, said the Korean official.

Hideki Okuzono, a professor of international relations at the University of Shizuoka who focuses on Korean studies, said the Shinzo Abe administration had imagined the Korean public would criticize the Moon Jae-in administration if it imposed export restrictions against Seoul.

“Japan thought the restrictions would induce Koreans to blame President Moon Jae-in for his economic failure and diplomatic isolation, yet the exact opposite has happened,” said Okuzono.

As more Koreans refuse to purchase Japanese products, sever their ties with Japan and outright denounce Abe, several mainstream Japanese media outlets are reporting on Korea’s simmering anti-Japanese sentiment as well.

On the second page of its Tuesday paper, The Asahi Shimbun wrote that many local government offices in Korea are shutting down or delaying exchange programs with their Japanese counterparts and Korean consumers are refusing to purchase Japanese goods, negatively affecting Japan’s economic, cultural and sports sectors.

The paper went on to cite a recent survey from Gallup Korea that showed nearly 80 percent of Koreans thought pessimistically about buying products from Japan.

“Hiruobi!,” a popular talk show program on the Japanese channel TBS, aired detailed reports about Korea’s anti-Japanese movement on Monday, from the anti-Abe protests in downtown Seoul over the past weekend and Moon’s cancellation of his summer vacation to Koreans’ boycott against Japanese companies. When a screen on the set showed Korean protesters pouring paint on placards with Abe’s picture on them, some Japanese panelists commented that the reactions were fiercer than what they had thought.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, meanwhile, said Monday that it was “extremely regretful” how local government offices in Korea and Japan were cutting off cultural exchanges, adding that he thought public-to-public exchanges must continue through local government offices even if Seoul-Tokyo ties are fraying at the higher, central government-level.

BY SEO SEUNG-WOOK AND YOON SUL-YOUNG [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]


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