Boycotts of Japanese products

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Boycotts of Japanese products have been conducted by numerous Korean, Chinese and American civilian and governmental organizations in response to real or disputed Japanese aggression and atrocities, whether military, political or economic.

20th century[edit]

The first boycott of Japanese products in China was started 1915 as a result of public indignation at the Twenty-One Demands which Japan forced China to accept. In 1919, the students and intellectuals involved in the May Fourth Movement called for another boycott of Japanese products, to which the public responded enthusiastically. Local chambers of commerce decided to sever economic ties with Japan, workers refused to work in Japanese-funded factories, consumers refused to buy Japanese goods, and students mobilised to punish those found selling, buying or using Japanese products.

The Jinan Incident of 1928 prompted a new boycott, this time the KMT government mobilised the population to cease economic dealings with Japan. From then on, anti-Japanese protests in China would always be accompanied with boycotts of Japanese products.

The Japanese invasion of China in 1931 and the conquest of Manchuria was roundly criticized in the U.S. In addition, efforts by citizens outraged at Japanese atrocities, such as the Nanking Massacre, led to calls for American economic intervention to encourage Japan to leave China; these calls played a role in shaping American foreign policy. As more and more unfavorable reports of Japanese actions came to the attention of the American government, embargoes on oil and other supplies were placed on Japan, out of concern for the Chinese populace and for American interests in the Pacific. Furthermore, the European American population became very pro-China and anti-Japan, an example being a grass-roots campaign for women to stop buying silk stockings, because the material was procured from Japan through its colonies.

After World War II, the Chinese community, upset over various issues such as the sovereignty of Senkaku Islands, the Japanese history textbook controversies and Japanese leaders' visits to Yasukuni Shrine, would launch boycotts of Japanese products. Republic of China citizens started a boycott in September 1972 to protest Japan's diplomatic recognition of the People's Republic of China, and twice burned Japanese products in front of the Taipei City Hall, coincidentally of Japanese construction.

21st century[edit]

Banner in South Korea in 2019

In 2005 a new wave of boycotts were started in mainland China, concurrent with the anti-Japanese demonstrations in major Chinese cities at the time. However, this boycott was at best a fringe attempt, and was denounced by the mainstream population, citing that China was integrated into the world economy and a boycott of one of China's biggest trading partners would cause as much harm to China as it would to Japan. Most people were more concerned over their standards of living than redressing old grievances. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Relations gave a similar view: That "Sino-Japanese economic cooperation developed significantly over the past decade and brought real benefits to the people of both nations. We do not wish for economic issues to be politicised." As with the anti-Japanese demonstrations, these activists began organising boycotts using the internet and mobile phones.

In 2019, a new wave of boycotts were started in South Korea as a response to the 2019 Japan–South Korea trade dispute. People participating in the movement started not buying Japanese products and services, travelling to Japan, and not watching Japanese-made films.[1][2]

Boycotts of Japanese products and services in South Korea have affected Japanese brands and tourism to Japan. On July 29, 2019, a Korean credit card company reported that credit card sales from Muji fell by 33.4%, ABC Mart sales fell by 11.4% and Daigaku Honyaku Center fell by 55.3%.[3] Uniqlo sales dropped by 40% and the company announced it will close down its Jongno 3-ga store in central Seoul.[4] Similarly, credit card spending from South Koreans in Japan have also declined. JTB Corporation reported that the number of Koreans visiting Japan declined by about 10%.[3] Some South Korean airlines announced they will reduce flights or suspend direct routes between major Japanese and South Korean cities.[5]

The boycott of Japanese products spread into the cultural sector, with the latest release of the Doraemon film series Doraemon: Nobita's Chronicle of the Moon Exploration, which is originally scheduled for release on August 14, had been postponed indefinitely even after the film's Korean dubbing was finished. In July, two other anime films, Butt Detective the Movie and Detective Conan: The Fist of Blue Sapphire, was subjected to unfavourable online reviews on internet and sold only 134,000 and 200,000 tickets respectively.[6][7]

A poll conducted by Realmeter involving 504 adults reveal that, as of July 24, 62.8% of respondents say they are boycotting Japanese goods.[8][9] Another poll conducted by Gallup Korea involving 1,005 adults found that only 12% held favourable views on Japan, while 77% have negative views. Likewise the poll found that 61% of respondents blame the Japanese government for the conflict, while 17% hold the South Korean government responsible.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "South Koreans call for boycott of Japanese cars, beer and cosmetics as 'trade war' intensifies". South China Morning Post. July 4, 2019. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  2. ^ "South Koreans are cancelling their Japan trip amid trade war". Travel Daily Media. July 23, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Moon-hee, Choi (July 30, 2019). "Credit card sales of Japanese Retailers Falling due to Koreans' Boycott of Japanese Goods". Business Korea. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  4. ^ Da-sol, Kim (August 2, 2019). "Uniqlo records 40 percent drop in sales, closes its Jongno 3-ga store". The Korea Herald. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  5. ^ Shao, Grace (July 31, 2019). "The escalating dispute between Tokyo and Seoul is already affecting businesses". CNBC. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  6. ^ "Anime 'Doraemon' Latest Victim of Japan-South Korea Trade War". Hollywood Reporter. August 4, 2019.
  7. ^ "Widening boycott of Japanese goods seeps into culture sector". Yonhap. August 5, 2019.
  8. ^ "Over 6 in 10 Koreans taking part in boycott of Japanese goods: poll". The Korea Herald. July 25, 2019. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  9. ^ "'일제 불매운동' 현재 참여자, 48% → 55% → 63%". Realmeter. July 25, 2019. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  10. ^ "Koreans' view of Japan falls to record low: poll". The Korea Times. July 12, 2019. Retrieved August 7, 2019.