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(LEAD) Japanese carmakers suffer extended setback in S. Korea from trade row

Industry 18:48 June 28, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS background in paras 7-8)

SEOUL, June 28 (Yonhap) --- Japanese automakers are suffering an extended slump in South Korea amid a protracted trade row between the two Asian neighbors and the coronavirus pandemic, industry sources said Sunday.

Honda Korea reported an operating profit to 1.98 billion won (US$1.64 million) in the 2019 fiscal year that ended in March, plunging 90 percent from 19.6 billion won a year earlier, according to its audit report. Its sales also plunged 23 percent to 363.2 billion won from 467.4 billion won over the cited period.

Its vehicle sales here also sank by 73 percent in the first five months of the year from a year earlier to 1,323.

Nissan Motor Co. also decided to pull out from South Korea 16 years after its landing here amid an extended slump with weak sales caused by lingering anti-Japan sentiment and the new coronavirus outbreak.

Nissan and its premium brand Infiniti logged 38 percent and 71 percent drops in sales, respectively, to 1,041 and 222 vehicles in the January-May period.

Toyota Motor Corp. and its luxury brand Lexus were also stung by protracted slumps, with their vehicle sales dropping 57 percent and 64 percent, respectively, in the first five months compared to a year earlier, industry data showed.

Five Japanese brands are available in the Korean passenger vehicle market -- Toyota, Lexus, Honda, Nissan and Infiniti.

The five brands saw their sales plunge 62 percent to 1,672 units in the five-month period from 4,415 a year ago, as the two countries are still at odds over Japan's export curbs against South Korea.

Last July, Japan tightened regulations on exports to South Korea of three high-tech materials critical for the production of semiconductors and displays.

In August, Japan also removed South Korea from its list of countries given preferential treatment in trade procedures.

South Korea views the moves as retaliation against 2018 Supreme Court rulings here ordering Japanese firms to compensate South Korean victims of forced labor during Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

This undated photo provided by Nissan Korea shows the Altima sedan. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

sam@yna.co.kr
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