SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Dozens of South Korean small-business owners rallied in South Korea’s capital yesterday calling for boycotts of Japanese consumer goods to protest Tokyo’s move to tighten high-tech exports to its neighbour.
President of the Korea Mart Association Kim Sung-min urged shop owners to boycott the distribution of Japanese products until Tokyo apologises over the trade curbs and withdraws them. Other demonstrators held up signs that read, “Our supermarket does not sell Japanese products.”
South Korea is concerned that the strengthened Japanese export controls of photoresists and other sensitive materials that are mainly used for manufacturing semiconductors and display screens could potentially hurt its export-dependent economy.
Japan’s measure, which went into effect earlier this month, has stoked public anger in South Korea, where many believe Japan still hasn’t fully acknowledged responsibility for atrocities committed during its colonial occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945.
Thousands of South Koreans have signed petitions posted by citizens on the presidential office’s websites that called for boycotts of Japanese products and travel to Japan and for South Korea to skip next year’s Tokyo Summer Olympics.
“We will continue boycotting the consumption and distribution of Japanese products until Japan’s government and the Abe administration apologises and withdraws its economic retaliation,” Kim said, referring to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Tokyo said the materials affected by the export controls can be sent only to trustworthy trading partners. Without presenting specific examples, Tokyo has questioned Seoul’s credibility in controlling the exports of arms and dual-use items that can be used both for civilian and military purposes.
South Korea said its export controls are working just fine and that Japan is retaliating against South Korean court rulings that ordered Japanese companies to compensate ageing South Korean victims for forced labour during World War II.
South Korea plans to file a complaint with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and will raise the issue at next week’s WTO General Council in Geneva, the country’s Trade Ministry said last Sunday.