South Korea calls for Japan boycott

South Korean merchants protest outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul on Friday, trampling boxes symbolizing Japanese products during a rally to denounce Japan curbing the export of high-tech materials to South Korea. (AP)
Updated 06 July 2019
0

South Korea calls for Japan boycott

  • Dispute over compensation for forced labor during World War 11 strains ties between the US allies

SEOUL: Calls in South Korea for a boycott of Japanese goods in response to Tokyo’s curbs on the export of high-tech material to South Korea picked up on Friday, as a dispute over compensation for forced wartime labor roiled ties between the US allies.

It is the latest flashpoint in a relationship long overshadowed by South Korean resentment of Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean peninsula, in particular South Korean “comfort women,” a Japanese euphemism for women forced to work in Japanese military brothels before and during World War II.

Japan apologized to the women as part of a 2015 deal and provided a 1 billion yen ($9.4 million) fund to help them.

Advocacy groups for the women have criticized the fund and South Korea dissolved it on Friday, despite Japan’s warnings that such action could damage ties.

“This is totally unacceptable for Japan. We’ve made stern representations to the South Korean side,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura said in Tokyo.

FASTFACT

 

• $54.6bn South Korea imported $54.6 billion worth of goods from Japan in 2018, and paid for $11.5 billion worth of its services.

The bitterness over the forced labor issue could disrupt global supplies of memory chips and smartphones.

Japan said on Monday that it would tighten restrictions on the export of high-tech materials used in smartphone displays and chips to South Korea. The curbs took effect on Thursday, fueling South Korean calls for retaliation.

Samsung Electronics Co. and SK Hynix Inc. — the world’s top memory chipmakers, and suppliers to Apple and China’s Huawei Technologies — could face delays if the curbs drag on.

“A boycott is the most immediate way for citizens to express their anger,” said Choi Gae-yeon of the activist group Movement for One Korea, that staged protests in front of a Japanese car showroom and a retailer in Seoul this week.

“Many people are angry at the attitude of the Japanese government,” she said.

The row over forced labor exploded last year when a South Korean court ordered Japan’s Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to South Korean plaintiffs.

Japan maintains that the issue was fully settled in 1965 when the two countries restored diplomatic ties, and has denounced the ruling as “unthinkable.”

Nearly 27,000 people had by Friday signed a petition posted on the South Korean presidential office website calling for a boycott of Japanese products and for tourists not to visit. The government must respond to a petition that gets 200,000 signatures in a month.

Some Korean social media users posted “Boycott Japan” messages and shared a link to a list of Japanese brands that could be targeted, including Toyota Motor and Fast Retailing’s Uniqlo.

Toyota’s South Korean unit declined to comment, and Fast Retailing’s South Korean unit did not have an immediate comment.

“Japan boycott movement” was among the most searched-for terms on South Korea’s main online search engine Naver.

A South Korean actor on Thursday deleted photographs that he posted on social media of a visit he made to Japan after online criticism.

Tourism-related shares fell this week due to concern about reduced demand for travel to Japan. Tour agency Hana Tour fell 3.4 percent on Thursday before paring losses on Friday.

South Korea imported $54.6 billion worth of goods from Japan in 2018, and paid for $11.5 billion worth of its services.

South Korea exported $30.5 billion in goods and $8.7 billion in services to Japan in the same year, according to South Korean customs and central bank data.


Funds managing $2 trillion urge cement makers to act on climate impact

A general view of Gulf Cement Company in Ghalilah, Ras al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates July 16, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 53 min 19 sec ago
0

Funds managing $2 trillion urge cement makers to act on climate impact

  • The cement industry produces 7 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, according to the International Energy Agency, meaning that if it were a country, it would be the third largest emitter, behind the US and China

LONDON: European funds managing $2 trillion in assets called on cement companies to slash their greenhouse gas emissions on Monday, warning that a failure to do so could put their business models at risk.
Some asset managers are ramping up engagement with heavy polluters to demand a faster transition to a cleaner economy.
“The cement sector needs to dramatically reduce the contribution it makes to climate change,” said Stephanie Pfeifer, CEO of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, which has more than 170 members, mainly European pension funds and asset managers. “This is ultimately a business-critical issue for the sector,” Pfeifer said in a statement.
The group said investors had written to cement or construction materials companies including Ireland’s CRH, Franco-Swiss group LafargeHolcim and France’s St. Gobain to demand they achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
They also noted that Germany’s HeidelbergCement had already adopted the target. The funds urged all cement companies to align themselves with the 2015 Paris agreement to combat global warming, engage with policymakers to ensure an orderly transition to a low carbon economy, and increase their reporting of climate risk.
“Construction materials companies may ultimately risk divestment and lack of access to capital as an increasing number of investors seek to exclude highly carbon-intensive sectors from their portfolios,” said Vincent Kaufmann, CEO of the Ethos Foundation.

FASTFACT

The cement industry produces 7 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, according to the International Energy Agency.

Signatories collectively manage assets worth $2 trillion and include Aberdeen Standard Investments, BNP Paribas Asset Management, Sarasin & Partners and Hermes EOS.
Although funds are increasingly engaging with companies from airlines to carmakers on emissions, few are calling for the systemic transformation of the global economic system that scientists increasingly argue is needed to prevent runaway climate breakdown.
The cement industry produces 7 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, according to the International Energy Agency, meaning that if it were a country, it would be the third largest emitter, behind the US and China.
With climate campaigners traditionally focused on fossil fuel companies, the European cement sector has received comparatively little scrutiny until recently.
On Tuesday, police arrested six climate activists from civil disobedience group Extinction Rebellion at a protest aimed at disrupting a site in east London belonging to London Concrete, a unit of LafargeHolcim.
In June last year, a report from think-tank Chatham House concluded that although there was no “silver bullet” to reduce emissions from cement, it should be possible to deploy a range of policies and technologies to achieve deep decarbonization.