South Koreans start boycotting Japanese retailers

As a South Korean consumer boycott of Japanese goods gains momentum, consumers are starting to share information on new and upcoming Japanese retailers coming to the country.

The intention, reports Korea Bizwire, is to include the retail brands on the boycott list and hurt sales as soon as the stores open. Among them, Japanese brands GU and Muji are being mentioned online as possible targets.

GU is Uniqlo’s sister brand, owned by Fast Retailing. It plans to open its second and third stores in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province and Seoul’s Times Square Mall by early next month.

Netizens are posting articles that emphasise the relationship between Uniqlo and GU as well as FRL Korea, which currently operates the Uniqlo Korea business.

Discord between the two countries dates back to Japan’s colonial occupation of the Korean Peninsula before and during the Second World War and controversy over forced labor and sexual slavery. It expanded into a diplomatic crisis last week when Japan threatened to throttle exports of materials essential to South Korean industries.

Last weekend, thousands of protestors marched in Seoul, accusing Japan of an “economic invasion”. The boycott campaign against Japanese retailers has stemmed from there.

South Korea’s Lotte Shopping and Japan’s Fast Retailing invested US$19.7 million to establish FRL Korea, owning 49 per cent and 51 per cent of the company’s shares, respectively.

That business partnership is being subject to public criticism for taking the lead in importing Japanese goods into South Korea after GU set up its flagship store at Jamsil’s Lotte World Mall and its second franchise at Lotte Mall in Yongin.

Muji, one of the best-known Japanese brands on the boycott list, is planning to renovate its store in Times Square Mall later this month.

The news is being shared on social media, and many netizens are already calling for a boycott of the new store.

GU and Muji have no current plans to suspend expansion or shut down stores already in operation. However, experts who spoke to Korea Bizwire agree that the new stores won’t be able to attract customers through the ‘grand opening’ effect unless the boycott movement subsides.


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