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South Koreans Are Turning Away From Japanese Beer Amid Trade War

Koreans are boycotting popular Japanese products like beer, ramen, and seasoning sauces.

by Meera Navlakha
04 September 2019, 7:04am

Image by Pittaya via Flickr.

South Koreans are huge beer drinkers, usually pairing the drink with a plate of fried chicken. Up until recently, Japanese brands like Asahi, Kirin, and Sapporo were popular choices, but tastes are changing amid rising tensions between the neighbouring countries.

According to Bloomberg, South Korea imported $78.3 million worth of Japanese beer last year. But there’s been a drop this year. In August, only $223,000 worth of Japanese beer made it to South Korea. This is a 97 percent drop from the $7.57 million recorded at the same time last year. In July, the drop was recorded at 94.9 percent compared to last year.

Korean supermarkets and convenience stores have stopped selling Japanese beer and haven’t placed more orders since August, Reuters reported. This is part of a larger boycott on popular Japanese products like ramen and seasoning sauces brought by a trade war between the two countries.

It started in July when Japan announced that it would tighten control over materials that are fundamental to the production of semiconductors in Korea. This affects the production of South Korean tech giants such as Samsung.

On August 2, Japan also removed South Korea from its “white list,” which gave the latter preferential treatment when it comes to trade.

This is an extension of an age-old conflict that dates back to the Japanese occupation of Korea during World War 2, a time Koreans associate with violence and oppression.

This spells trouble for Japanese beer companies. Asahi Group Holdings, for example, said in early August that their profits have taken a hit. They’ve even lowered their forecast for this year’s profits. This could prove to be beneficial for rival beer companies, including those that manufacture Korean brands like Hite.

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