"The economy is bad, and we might have to close the shop because of the boycott against Japan. It is a very nice and natural thing to have patriotism, but It is also true that I am getting worried about how to earn a living." said Moneytoday, a shop owner who runs a Japanese restaurant in Jongno-gu. After the Japanese government announced that they are going to reinforce export limitation for Korea, on July 4, the two countries’ relations is not getting better. Accordingly, the opinion for boycotting Japan has been spreading in Korea. Common people are expressing sentiments like the following: “Boycott Japan. We will not go there. we will not buy their products” and “I love Korea. We will buy Korean products often. We will travel in Korea frequently.”
Boycott Japan has lasted more than a month. According to the Realmeter, an opinion research international in Korea, 76.2% of the 501 Korean adults said that they will keep boycotting Japan until they withdraw the economic revenge policies. At the same time, Korea’s brands are getting attention. Especially consumers’ interests in Korea’s product is increasing steadily with the appearance of “NonoJapan”, which is an online community posting a message introducing alternative products from Korea in order to carry out the boycott campaign against Japan, and it is drawing huge attention from people.
People are boycotting Japanese products because they believe it will help to correct Japan’s distortions of history such as the matter of military sexual slavery by Japan or its compulsory manpower draft during World War II. However, the boycott is also damaging some of the non-public economy in Korea. It is because the boycott of Japan affects not only the large companies but also the non-corporate economy comprised of restaurants, bars and other small businesses. Thus, self-employed people whose businesses borrowed from the Japanese culture are suffering.
Up until the Boycott Japan movement began, Japanese-style restaurants have continued their sweeping upturn in Korea. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the number of Japanese restaurant businesses increased by about 16 percent to 10,39 last year from 8,657 as of 2015. As of last year, the number of workers working at Japanese-style restaurants stood at 45,003, the data showed. This data is exactly showing the reason why boycotting Japanese culture is also making the Korea’s economic situation worse. Stores such as Izakaya or Japanese restaurants are only selling "Japanese food.” However, as people are not buying these things because it is part of Japan’s culture, shop owners are having difficulty attracting customers.
Japanese shop owners are working hard to inform the public they are not selling Japanese food or products. They are also trying hard to show that their stores support the boycott. One of the franchises, Izakaya in downtown Seoul, posted a phrase at the entrance saying it is not a Japanese company and supports the boycott campaign. They also said they are providing Korean beer or beverages for free to customers during lunch time. However, even in the evening there were empty seats everywhere, and it was hard to find employees who were busy.
With the boycott of Japan causing economic problems in Korea, there is a constant debate over the pros and cons of doing the boycott of Japan. Cho Kyung-yup, a senior researcher at the Korea Economic Research Institute, expressed concerns over the emotional side of the boycott in Japan, saying, "The prolonged boycott also shows that some Korean companies and self-employed people are suffering losses." Another reason why people disagree with the boycott Japan movement is that as the Japanese boycott spreads blindly, blind criticism is pouring out on people who do not join the boycott. On the other hand, Kim Bang-hee, director of the Institute for Living Economics, said that Boycott Japan will inevitably hurt self-employed whose businesses are associated in any way with Japan, but it is not necessarily a matter to look bad because this is the chance to correct our history which Japan distorted.”
Not only Korea but foreign countries are having a concern about Korea and Japan’s trade war. It is because the trade war can have a bad influence on the world economy. Hereupon, CNN mentioned that this trade war between Korea and Japan should be over soon, saying that they believe Moon Jae-in president will do his best for a diplomatic solution in the meeting with businessmen and they do not want Korea and Japan to reach an impasse. As President Moon mentioned before, as Korea and Japan are neighboring countries, they will play inevitably play an important role in each other's future and will need exchanges. Therefore, efforts should be made to resolve each other's problems through dialogue, as the continued retaliation against each other is not good for either country’s economic well-being.