March 16, 2005

Anti-Japan Sentiment on the Rise

Anti-Japan Sentiment on the Rise in S. Korea?

Japanese automakers such as Toyota, Honda, and Nissan seem irritated over rising "anti-Japan sentiment" in South Korea, caused by the ongoing row between South Korea and Japan over the ownership of the islands between the two countries.

The territorial disputes over the islands - called Dokdo by South Korea and Takeshima by Japan - comes at a time when the Japanese automakers are trying to further strengthen their leading position among foreign carmakers in South Korea.

The growing anti-Japanese sentiment, which is often shown through protests by South Koreans in front of Japanese embassy in downtown Seoul and TV and newspaper reports, could deal a heavy blow, particularly to Toyota Motor, which is striving, via Lexus, to vault ahead of longtime luxury leader BMW in Korea.

Toyota Motor says the anti-Japan sentiment isn't leading to a decline in its sales in Korea right now, but "could damage its sales in Korea if the dispute continues" to a point where the rich are reluctant to buy foreign cars in fears of social anger.

The Lexus ES330 was the number-one model last year among foreign cars sold in Korea.
Also fretting about the rapidly rising anti-Japanese sentiment is Honda, which has emerged as one of leading sellers in South Korea after its launch in May of last year. The Honda Accord 3.0 was the third best-selling car last year. The negative feeling toward Japan isn't good news to Nissan either; it is preparing to sell five models of its cars including its luxury brand Infiniti, beginning in April of this year.

Japanese automakers have been making rapid inroads into the South Korean auto market, taking advantage of their relatively cheap prices compared to other major players including BMW.

At the end of February, tensions flared over the islands when Japan's ambassador to Seoul, Toshiyuki Takano, restated Tokyo's position that the islands were "historically and legally part of Japanese territory." He made the statement during a press meeting at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents' Club (SFCC).

Although Tokyo and Seoul have had relatively chilly relations due to Japan's colonization of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, Japanese products such as electronic goods and cars are popular in South Korea. -Peter Chang

Hattip: The Car Connection

Posted by Quality Weenie at March 16, 2005 11:03 AM