Japanese beer exports to South Kora have plunged to zero in October as consumers shun Japanese products following a spiraling trade war between the two Asian countries. In the same month last year South Korea imported beer worth JPY 800 million (USD 7.3 million) accounting to about two thirds of the country's beer exports, according to trade data from Japan's finance ministry. In 2018 South Korea bought a total of JPY 7.9 billion (USD 73 million) worth of Japanese beer.
The relationship between the two neighboring countries has long been strained because of Japan's brutal colonization of the peninsula in the first half of the 20th century. The latest conflict arose, when South Korea allowed former workers to sue for indemnification for forced labor during Japan’s occupation of South Korea between 1910 and 1945. Tokyo refuses payments saying that an agreement from 1965 in which Japan paid USD 500 million was meant to cover such cases. Early this summer South Korea has called now to boycott Japanese goods with beer being an easy target.
In July Japanese beer shipments to South Kora went down by 11% (inside.beer, 7.8.2019). In August beer imports decreased by as much as 92%, when Japan dropped South Korea as a preferred trading partner. The figure increased to 99% in September and has reached nearly 100% in October.
Beer has not been the only product to suffer from boycott calls but it seems to be the one with the highest symbolic character.