Businesspeople in Tokyo want PM to offer clues

Haruna Suzuki, left, a 15-year-old student, and her mother Takako Suzuki, a 44-year-old office worker, from Saitama Prefecture, pose for a picture in Korea Town in Tokyo, Tuesday. On the same day, Japanese Emperor Naruhito held a ceremonial event to announce his coronation to the international community in Tokyo. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

TOKYO, Oct 23, 2019, The Korea Times. South Korean businesspeople in Tokyo’s Korea Town remained hopeful Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon’s visit to Japan to attend the coronation of new Japanese emperor will help to improve Seoul-Tokyo relations, reported The Korea Times.

However, Japanese businesspeople contacted by The Korea Times, here, still remained doubtful that there will be any visible progress in the short term.

Despite the continued political tension between the two countries, Korea Town located in Shinokubo, Tokyo, remained vibrant with Japanese visitors enjoying Korean culture and food on the holiday despite heavy rain.

South Korea and Japan are currently locked in a bitter trade and diplomatic row stemming from historical disputes, and South Korean consumers have mounted boycotts of Japanese products.

Shinokubo, however, appeared to be bustling with people who are passionate about Korean culture. They formed long lines to buy Korean street food or waited for their orders in Korean restaurants, which is not an unusual scene there, visitors said.

“I am worried about what [kind of bad thing] would happen to me in Korea if I visit there as there are bad rumors about South Korea here. However, I still don’t pay attention to [the worsening relations between Seoul and Tokyo] and want to go to Korea,” Takako Suzuki, a 44-year-old office woman, who came to the area with her daughter Haruna Suzuki, 15, to do some shopping there. She said they both like BTS and visit the area once a month.

She said some South Korean companies’ reactions against Japanese products were “rather excessive.”

Unsurprisingly, South Korean businesspeople said the Prime Minister Lee’s visit to Tokyo and his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to lay “some ground” in resolving the friction.

“When former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak visited Dokdo in 2012, the situation [for Korean businessmen here] was worse than now. In the past, [Japanese right-wingers] used hate speech against Korean residents. I hope Lee’s visit to Japan makes some improvement in the current relations,” said Oh Young-seok, CEO of Eimei, which runs dozens of Korean restaurants throughout Japan and Korea.

However, Oh admitted the spats were having a negative impact on his business in Japan. “My business suffered a 10 percent decline in sales since last year,” he said.

“For example, I sell Korean side dishes like Kimchi and Japchae. [Due to the worsening relations between the two countries,] one day a Japanese customer came to my store and said ‘My daughter-in-law, who loves Korean food of the restaurant, sent me to buy Korean food on behalf of her as she was worried about people’s opinions.”

But some said the Prime Minister’s visit might not make a huge difference.

“It appears that South Korea has high expectations for the visit and following improvement in relations, however, many Japanese don’t seem to think the same way Seoul does,” an economist in Japan said, asking to remain anonymous as he wasn’t authorized to officially speak to the media.

By Park Ji-won

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