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Made in Korea sign (Photo: Adli Wahid on Unsplash)
27 August 2020

South Koreans’ boycott of Japanese beers bites

South Korea | Japanese brands, from beer to clothes, were hit hard by a consumer boycott in 2019, which was sparked – allegedly – by South Korean court rulings that allow assets of Japanese companies to be seized and used to compensate Korean victims of World War II-era forced labour. Japan retaliated by imposing curbs on exports of chipmaking materials to South Korea.

This was reported by The Nikkei Asian Review (NAR) in August 2020. Per the website, Tokyo’s action sparked a strong response by South Korean consumers, who began to shun Japanese products – in some cases with severe financial effects.

According to Euromonitor, imported beers from Japan were most affected. Meanwhile, the boycott continues to pick up steam. China’s Tsingtao beer has now overtaken Asahi as the top selling imported beer, with Heineken climbing from third to second.

Keeping a low profile

As said the NAR, exports of Japanese beer to South Korea nearly halved to JPY 4 billion (USD 38 million) in 2019 over 2018. Although the South Korean market represented more than half of Japan’s beer exports in 2019, the impact of losing their nearest overseas market was limited for Japanese brewers.

Per the NAR, Japan exported only 1.2 million hl of beer to South Korea in 2018, or 2.3 percent of total domestic beer production.

Nevertheless, South Korea was an attractive market because of shrinking demand for beer at home.

Asahi’s rivals Kirin and Sapporo are also struggling in South Korea and have not restarted marketing campaigns including TV advertising, that were suspended last year, the NAR said.