Uniqlo Korea sparks controversy – again

Uniqlo Korea has sparked yet another round of controversy, this time by distributing free Heattech shirts as part of a new marketing offensive.

The Japanese apparel company, as part of its 15th Anniversary promotional event, is giving away 100,000 heat-tech shirts on a first-come, first-served basis to all customers purchasing a product, regardless of the price, at Uniqlo Korea offline stores.

Since the promotion can end early if daily quotas are reached, it wasn’t difficult to find people lining up at stores early in the morning, causing an uproar on South Korean social media.

Despite the negative reaction, Uniqlo distributed a press release to promote the giveaway, demonstrating its intention to address the public head-on by turning it into ‘noise marketing’.

South Koreans are increasingly divided over the issue as social figures are joining the debate.

“The number of customers at Uniqlo soared ever since the giveaway, despite the fact they can’t choose the size or color of the shirt,” said Prof Seo Kyung-duk from Sungshin Women’s University, a Korean PR activist.

“Why do we have to go there, out of all places, to get free clothes?”

In contrast, others implicitly argue that, while they respect one’s own belief, the boycott movement should not be forced on anyone.

The fact that Uniqlo products are being sold online, while offline stores are empty, shows there is a large population of so-called ‘shy Uniqlo’, ‘shy Japan’ consumers in the country.

Uniqlo Korea sales have plunged in recent months due to an ongoing boycott of Japanese brands and retail networks relating to a lack of apology over the occupation of Korea during the Second World War.


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