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Boycott Japan: South Korea Instagrammers react to trade spat

Consumers urged to avoid Uniqlo, Shiseido and Asahi and buy "Korean alternative" products instead

Seoul

ANGERED by Japan's move to restrict exports of vital manufacturing materials to the country, South Koreans have taken to Instagram and other social media platforms to show their support for boycotts of Japanese travel and consumer products.

More than 2,400 public posts with hashtag #BoycottJapan have been shared on Instagram since the measures were imposed on Thursday, with some including a picture using Japan's red rising sun icon as "O" in the word "No". "NO, Boycott Japan: Don't go, don't buy," it says.

While support for any boycott so far appears limited, the push highlights the growing risk of open economic warfare between the two US allies. Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government announced the restrictions on sales to South Korea of materials necessary to produce vital components in high-tech manufacturing.

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In recent days, South Korean Internet users have been sharing cancellation confirmations for flights to Tokyo, Osaka and other popular travel destinations. South Koreans make up 13 per cent of spending by foreign tourists in Japan, according to the Japan Tourism Agency, or 584.2 billion yen (S$7.32 billion) in 2018.

They've also circulated lists of "Korean alternative" products to replace Japanese goods. Koreans are being encouraged to shop at SPAO, Samsung C&T's 8 Seconds or Top 10, instead of Fast Retailing's Uniqlo. They are also urging people to consider Able C&C's Missha's beauty products instead those by Shiseido, as well as beer from Hite Jinro but not Asahi Group Holdings.

Fast Retailing gets about 6.7 per cent of its sales from South Korea, while a South Korean joint venture between Asahi and Lotte Chilsung Beverage earned less than one per cent of its revenue there, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, an umbrella association of South Korean mom-and-pop stores has announced its participation in the boycott. The Korean Supermarkets Alliance, an organisation representing more than 23,000 stores, said it would temporarily halt sales of Japanese products, including beers by Asahi and Kirin Holdings, and Japan Tobacco's Mild Seven cigarettes. BLOOMBERG

READ MORE: S Korean leader urges Japan to withdraw export restrictions