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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Aug. 13)

Editorials from Korean Dailies 07:02 August 13, 2019

Deep-rooted legacy
: 'Boycott Japan' shows collective will of Koreans to overcome past

The Boycott Japan consumer movement is gaining momentum in South Korea despite Japan's apparent move to step back from the ongoing bilateral trade dispute.

The latest target of the campaign was Kolmar Korea, a major cosmetics and healthcare goods manufacturer established in 1990 as a joint venture with Japan's Nihon Kolmar. Korean consumers attacked the firm after it became known that its Chairman Yoon Dong-han shared a controversial YouTube video representing the extreme views of the Japanese far-right with about 700 employees at a monthly company meeting recently.

In the video, a man harshly criticizes South Korean President Moon Jae-in's response to Japan's export restrictions, saying, "The fact that Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe didn't punch President Moon in his face by now proves that Abe is a great leader." The video finishes with a curse on South Korea. "Women in Venezuela sell sex only for $7. South Korea will soon become like Venezuela."

The company said Yoon played this video to employees to discuss how Seoul should cope with Tokyo, and it did not represent Yoon's personal views. But it is simply not understandable how Yoon picked such a video to play at a company meeting even considering the firm's deep ties to Nihon Kolmar. When established, Kolmar Korea was 49 percent owned by the Japanese company which still holds a 12.4 percent stake in Kolmar Korea. An executive of Nihon Kolmar, Yoshihide Kanzaki, is also a member of the Kolmar Korea board, according to CEO Score, a corporate analysis site.

As the controversy escalated, Yoon finally offered to resign as chairman, Sunday. However, his resignation will not affect the family control on Kolmar Korea, because his son, CEO Yoon Sang-hyun, is effectively controlling the firm.

What added fuel to the anti-Japan sentiment here was Japanese beauty firm DHC Corp.'s broadcasting of hate speech against Koreans through its affiliated television network. DHC Television aired a talk show recently in which panelists made false claims that Korea's unique writing system, Hangeul, was created by the Japanese, and made disrespectful remarks about the girl statue symbolizing "comfort women," victims of wartime sex slavery during the Japanese occupation of Korea.

One panelist even asked, "Is it okay to publicly expose my penis in the name of modern art?"

DHC Chairman Yoshiaki Yoshida is known in South Korea for supporting ultra-right politicians and having disparaging views toward ethnic Koreans in Japan.

The Boycott Japan movement is now spreading widely from cosmetics, food, beverages and clothing to vehicles and tourism. In fact, emotional reactions from citizens are making the Seoul-Tokyo trade row more complicated.

However, as seen in the cases of Kolmar Korea and DHC, the legacy of Japan's 1910-45 occupation of Korea is deep-rooted not only in South Korea, but also in Japan. The Boycott Japan movement is criticized by some for targeting specific Japanese products and firms, making it more difficult for Korea and Japan to find solutions to the ongoing trade row.

But it should rather be understood as reflecting Koreans' collective will to overcome the legacy of colonialism and lay the foundation for more future-oriented relations between the two countries in a true sense.

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