Imports of Japanese cars and beer fell sharply in July due to the spreading boycott of Japanese products amid a trade dispute with Tokyo, data from the Korea Customs Service (KCS) showed Tuesday.
According to the data, Japanese beer imports plunged 45 percent month-on-month to $4.34 million in July, while passenger car imports fell by 17.2 percent to $65.74 million from a month earlier.
From a year earlier, the imports of Japanese cars and beer were down 34.1 percent and 35 percent, respectively.
"The boycott appears to have resulted in decreased purchase of Japanese imports," a KCS official said. "The figures are preliminary, and the exact data will come out in mid-August."
Cars and beer have become the main targets of the "boycott Japan" movement among local consumers, which was sparked by the worsening trade row.
Korea-Japan relations began to deteriorate when Tokyo imposed export curbs on high-tech materials to Seoul on July 4, which was seen as retaliation against Seoul court rulings ordering Japanese firms to provide compensation for surviving South Korean victims of wartime forced labor.
In addition, Japan removed Korea from its whitelist of preferred trading partners on Aug. 2, further igniting the boycott movement here.
According to convenience store officials, beer has become the main target because there are many local and import replacements available.
"Japanese beer sales nosedived 52.2 percent between July 1 and Aug. 4, whereas local beer and foreign beer (excluding Japanese beer brands) sales each rose about 11 percent," a CU official said.
Given that the consumption of beer usually increases during the summer, the sharp decline in Japanese beer sales represents the negative public sentiment toward the neighboring country.
only Japanese beer sales turned negative in July from a month earlier, falling 33 percent," a 7-Eleven official said.
Regarding passenger cars, Toyota Motor's sales dropped 38 percent month-on-month to 865 vehicles in July.
Honda's sales fell 42 percent while Nissan tumbled 20 percent in July from a month earlier, according to data from Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association.
Although carmakers are still assessing the main factors driving the declines last month, industry officials expect the boycott campaign could hurt sales further.
"There are many factors that affect our sales, including seasonality and plans to unveil new vehicles," a Toyota Korea official said.
"It's difficult to say the worsening Korea-Japan relations are the only reason why sales were down in July. We're currently assessing the factors."
A Nissan Korea official said the Korea-Japan trade row has resulted in a sales decline in July.
"We were affected by the ongoing trade spat between Korea and Japan," the company official said.
Regarding the sales of its new Altima, which was unveiled in July, the official said, "We can't give specific numbers, but the sales figure looks similar to those of previous generation models."