Uniqlo’s 2nd apology covers boycott comment, 1st apology

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Uniqlo’s 2nd apology covers boycott comment, 1st apology

The Japanese headquarters of Uniqlo has apologized for a Japanese executive’s comments that stated the impact of a Korean consumer boycott of the brand “won’t last for long,” adding to an apology made by the retailer’s Korean office last week.

“Last week, we delivered an apology to media outlets that asked for Uniqlo headquarters’ response, and we realized during this process our insufficient explanation once again spurred misunderstandings,” said a joint statement released Monday by Fast Retailing, Uniqlo’s parent company, and Uniqlo Korea. “We are deeply sorry.”

They added that an apology statement to Korean customers would be uploaded on the Japanese website of Fast Retailing, Uniqlo Korea’s official homepage and its official social media accounts. The apology will also be displayed on board inside stores here as well.

The offensive remark came from CFO Takeshi Okazaki of Fast Retailing on July 11 during an event for investors. When asked about the move in Korea to boycott the brand, Okazaki said it had “already caused a certain amount of impact,” but it “won’t last for long.”

Japanese news coverage of the event quickly spread on Korean online forums and social networks, outraging local consumers who felt that Okazaki’s comments were belittling the boycott by implying it was an impulsive, short-lived movement.

The event fueled existing negative sentiment toward Uniqlo, which was already high up on the list of boycott targets as one of the most visible Japanese brands in Korea. After Okazaki’s comment, protesters started gathering in front of Uniqlo stores to discourage people from shopping there.

As complaints snowballed online, Uniqlo Korea issued an apology last Tuesday, adding an explanation that Okazaki’s intentions were misunderstood as he used the wrong expressions. What he was trying to convey, it said, was that the company would continue to offer good products and services despite the negative sentiment.

However, the statement didn’t do much to cool down the outrage, as some protesters said the response didn’t come from Uniqlo’s Japanese headquarters but was issued by Uniqlo’s Korean office. Uniqlo Korea is run by FRL Korea, a joint venture of Fast Retailing and Lotte Shopping, which each own a 51 and 49 percent share respectively.

Last week’s apology was also not widely publicized on the brand’s official website or social network accounts. The statement was sent to press that specifically contacted the Korean office asking for a response regarding to Okazaki’s comment. The new apology again says that Okazaki used the wrong words, and what he meant to say was he wishes the boycott movement will be short lived, not he believes it will.

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]
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