South Korea & Japan: Japanese beer imports in South Korea reach highest figure in three and a half years
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Japanese beer imports in January hit the highest figure in three and a half years, according to the Korea Customs Service on March 7.
Japanese beer imports reached $2,004,000 in the first month of 2023, a 314.9 percent increase on year.
This was the highest figure since a trade dispute between Korea and Japan began in July 2019, when Japan slapped controls on exports of key materials for semiconductors and displays to Korea.
The move, widely believed to have been in retaliation for Korean court rulings ordering the liquidating of Japanese corporate assets to compensate victims of Japanese wartime forced labor, sparked a Korean consumer boycott of Japanese products, including Japanese beer.
Korean imported $434 million of beer that month, but imports dived to $223,000 in August and plunged further to $6,000 in September.
Popular Japanese beers like Asahi, Sapporo and Kirin were nowhere to be found in stores for a while.
Japanese beer imports bounced back to $1.5 million in March last year, surpassing the $1 million mark for the first time since the trade dispute as anti-Japanese sentiment abated.
Beer imports remained above $1 million between May and December and exceeded $2 million in January.
Beer imports in January were just 28 percent of the same month in 2019, but 334 times greater than the September 2019 low.
Korea bought $14.5 million worth of Japanese beer last year, 110.7 percent more than in 2021, when it bought just $6.88 million worth of beer from its neighbor to the east.
Korea bought $78.3 million in 2018, $39.8 million in 2019 and $5.67 million in 2020.
Nevertheless, Japanese beer still has some ground to recover to return to pre-trade dispute levels, accounting for just 7.4 percent of total beer imports, short of the 25 percent it enjoyed in 2018.
Japanese fast-fashion clothing company Uniqlo is also making a comeback.
According to Financial Supervisory Service’s DART disclosure system, Uniqlo’s domestic distributor FRL Korea logged 704 billion won ($542 million) in revenue between September 2021 and August 2022, a 20.9 percent increase on year.
Its operating profit was 115 billion won, a 116.8 percent increase on year.
The company sparked public backlash in 2019 for an ad some Koreans believed mocked wartime forced labor victims. It was also included in the same consumer boycott that targeted Japanese beer.
Although FRL Korea’s revenue recorded 1.38 trillion won in 2018, it halved to 630 billion in 2019 and dropped to 583 billion in 2020.