Japan’s sudden implementation of a strict ban on exports caused great shock in Korea. This incident sparked an immediate reaction, which led to a large-scale boycott campaign in Korea. Many people stopped buying Japanese goods, with a few shops even hanging the slogan, “Let’s purchase domestic products.” The long enmity between the two countries had again resurfaced, creating large waves.
It is no surprise that the clash between the two countries has finally reached a boiling point. This provides brief insight into the relationship between Japan and Korea, illustrating the conflict inherent in their ties. The word anti- has been frequently used in front of the words Japan and Korea, not just in the most recent incident, showing the deep-rooted animosity towards each other. These words are often mentioned in the press, which deepens the divide between the two countries.
Then, why are these countries still so adversarial when it comes to their relations? The historical influence plays a major role here. Negative feelings between the two countries have been ever-present given the bloody history between the two. During the Japanese colonial era, thousands of Koreans suffered labor exploitation, and countless women were forced to work as wartime sex slaves known as “comfort women.” This is still a very controversial issue, with the victims in Korea having never received a formal apology from Japan.
Japan and Korea are also arguing over further problems, such as the territorial dispute over Dokdo Island. Despite historical data proving that the island belongs to South Korea, Japan pushed ahead with its claim, even publishing textbooks defending their rights to Dokdo Island. This historical distortion has left a scar on Koreans, especially because Japan kept on pushing fabricated facts on its people.
Consequently, these negative emotions have generated a stereotypical image of Japanese people in Korea, with Japanese people seen as shameless and hateful. While the reasons for this hostile attitude is understandable, the exaggerated criticism of Japanese individuals should be avoided. For instance, the genuine reason behind the boycott is the anger over the sudden break in bilateral ties following economic retaliation by Japan. Thus, the focus should be on the unjustifiable actions of the Japanese government, not innocent Japanese citizens who are not involved in policy decisions.
Unfortunately, it seems that people are already overwhelmed with anti-Japanese sentiment, uploading photos on social media that show Japanese products in a trash can or calling Koreans travelling to Japan unforgivable traitors. However, Korea should maintain a mature sense of citizenship by avoiding emotional behavior and blind accusations in relation to the Japanese boycott. If it does not, Korea might end up being perceived as a troublesome child throwing a tantrum. While the intentions could be reasonable, the methods might worsen relationships further.
It seems that the public anger will not recede any time soon, and the tensions between the two may remain for quite a while. Despite a number of resentful actions that have gone too far, the boycott movement shows how aware citizens are of national affairs given the strong voicing of their opinions. Now is the time for Korea to be more discreet so that it can calmly resolve the situation and begin sincere talks with Japan, rather than simply slandering each other.