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South Korea boycott of Japanese goods over island dispute

By Pamela Boykoff and Soo Bin Park, CNN
updated 7:10 PM EST, Fri March 1, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • South Korean shop owners are launching a nationwide boycott of Japanese products
  • Protests Tokyo's claim of a group of islands called Dokdo in Korea, Takeshima in Japan
  • Korean shops pledge not to sell popular Japanese brands such as Sony and Asahi beer
  • Latest in a series of territorial claims between nations in the East and South China seas

(CNN) -- South Korean shop owners are launching a nationwide boycott of Japanese products over a territorial dispute between the two countries.

The President of the Save Local Stores Alliances, Oh Ho-suk, claims most of the alliance's 7.2 million members will ultimately participate in the effort. They are pledging not to sell popular Japanese products like Mild Seven cigarettes, Asahi beer and Sony electronics. Some car mechanics are also saying they will refuse to repair cars from Japanese brands like Toyota, Honda and Nissan.

"We will continue this boycott until we get a sincere apology from the Japanese government," Oh says.

His group is angry over Japan's continuing claim to a series of islands that lie between the two countries. Seoul calls the islands Dokdo, Tokyo calls them Takeshima. Both countries claim them, but they are currently under South Korean control.

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The dispute is the latest in a series of competing national claims to islands in the East and South China seas, where ownership can give exclusive rights to fishing, oil production and other commercial activities in surrounding waters.

Large Japanese exporters like Toyota and Canon suffered declining sales in China last fall when a separate island dispute between those two countries escalated into a major product boycott. Protests turned violent in September after the Japanese government purchased the island chain -- known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan -- from private Japanese owners.

READ: Dangerous waters: Behind the islands dispute

This is the first such boycott to be launched over the recent flare-up in tensions between Japan and South Korea.

Police say over 200 people participated in a protest today in Seoul to launch the boycott, chanting "we will not sell or buy Japanese products." They threw eggs at a sign featuring Japanese brand logos, waved South Korean flags and held signs reading "Dokdo is our territory" and the "Japanese government must apologize." Many of the women attending dressed in the traditional Korean garb known as the hanbok.

The protests marched from Topgol Park to Gwanghwamun Square. Oh says they handed out 50,000 flyers about the boycott. March 1 is a public holiday in South Korea which celebrates the launch of the independence movement from Japan in 1919.

Japan Tobacco, owner of Mild Seven, Winston and Camel, and Asahi Breweries declined to comment on the boycott.

CNN's Junko Ogura in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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