South Korean grocers and corner shop owners have issued an ultimatum to Japan: end your claim to a disputed set of islands in the East Sea or face a national boycott of your products.
The boycott, which is expected to target brands such as Mild Seven cigarettes and Asahi beer, is the first sign that the dispute over the South Korean-controlled islands, known in Korea as the Dokdo but in Japan as Takeshima, could hit economic ties between the two neighbours.
The association of small merchants, which has a membership of about 4m corner shop owners, strongly condemned Japan’s new government for holding events last Friday to commemorate “Takeshima Day”, which marks the day in 1905 that Japan incorporated some barren islets located between the two countries into its territory.
“It is an international provocation, which we can no longer tolerate,” the Save Local Stores Alliance said in a joint statement with some civic groups. “We will continue this boycott of all Japanese products until Japan repents its past wrongdoing and stops its sovereignty claims to Dokdo.”
Hey, whatever gets people to come to corner stores, I guess.
The real question on everybody’s mind—well, on the Seoul Gyeongje‘s mind—is whether the boycott will hurt sales of Japanese beer. You see, Japanese beer sales have been brisk (and local beer sales slagging, at least in terms of sales percentage) thanks to the weak yen and aggressive marketing. Sales have been particularly good at major supermarkets and convenience store chains. Same think the boycott will have a negative effect on Japanese beer sales, but others seem to believe it won’t have much of an impact at all as Japanese beer has quite a few fans.