REUTERS, March 19, 2005
SEOUL - JUST as some of Japan's biggest brands were making inroads into South Korea, a territorial row over a sprinkling of desolate islands may trim sales following calls in Seoul to boycott Japanese goods. What may yet bring the dispute between the two North Asian neighbours into even sharper focus is that the islands probably sit on a huge reserve of natural gas that could be worth US$150 billion (S$245 billion), according to Korea Gas estimates.
The islands, called Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan, lie midway between the two countries about 220km from either shore in the Sea of Japan, which Seoul calls the East Sea. Few people outside the two countries have heard of the islands. But the rhetorical fight between the world's second- and 11th-largest economies over the uninhabited rocky outcroppings shows few signs of waning.
South Korea was outraged this week when a local Japanese assembly enacted a largely symbolic bylaw stressing Tokyo's claim to the islands. South Koreans took to the streets in protest, burning Japanese flags and even cutting off fingers. That anger could translate into an impact on sales for famous Japanese names such as Toyota and Sony if South Korean consumers shun Japanese goods, economists said.---------