August 7, 2019 / 3:25 AM / 4 months ago

S.Korean imports of Japanese beer nearly halve as consumer backlash grows

SEOUL, Aug 7 (Reuters) - South Korean imports of Japanese beer slumped 45% in July from the previous month in the wake of a consumer boycott sparked by an escalating political and economic dispute between the two Asian neighbours, data showed.

Japan shipped $4.3 million worth of beer to South Korea in July, down from $6.6 million a year earlier and $7.9 million in June, according to preliminary customs office data provided by lawmaker Kim Jung-woo to Reuters.

On July 4, Japan tightened export controls for materials used to make chips, South Korea’s top export item, intensifying a row over wartime forced labour and inviting a consumer backlash in Korea.

Such anger has prompted a widespread boycott of Japanese products and services, from beer, clothes and cars to travel.

Many supermarkets and convenience stores have been removing Japanese items such as beer from their stands and stopping new orders.

South Korea buys 61% of Japan’s beer exports, spending 7.9 billion yen ($73 million) in 2018 for the shipments, according to Japan’s finance ministry.

Asahi Group Holdings said last week the spread of the South Korean consumer boycott of Japanese goods was affecting its beer sales as it lowered its profit guidance slightly.

A boycott campaign is expected to grow as Japan is taking steps to remove Korea’s fast-track export status, industry officials and experts say.

Japanese automakers such as Toyota and Honda are bracing for further sales drops in South Korea in the coming months, after they posted sharp sales declines last month.

A slew of South Korean airlines are also suspending flights to Japan as they brace for a dwindling number of tourists. South Korea’s second-largest carrier Asiana Airlines Inc and budget carrier Eastar Jet said on Wednesday they would temporarily halt a combined four more flights between Korea and Japan. (Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Additional reporting by Heekyong Yang in Seoul and Kaori Kaneko in Tokyo; Editing by Hyunjoo Jin and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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