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Convenience stores get patriotic

July 31,2019
Convenience store chains are encouraging customers to eschew Japanese products, part of a boycott sparked by Tokyo’s punitive restrictions on industrial material exports to Korea.

GS Retail announced on Tuesday it will educate consumers about facets of Korean history through products sold at its convenience store chain, GS25. Next month, the company will place a sticker that tells the history of Korea’s national flag on its dosirak (lunch boxes with rice and side dishes).

This will be the fourth GS25 national campaign promoting Korean history as related to Japan, its former colonial overlord. It will continue until Aug. 18.

The retailer actually started the campaign last August. Over the past year, it has used stickers that introduce independence fighters and the victims of Japanese wartime sexual slavery, who are euphemistically referred to as comfort women.

Next month’s campaign, however, will take on additional meaning amid the deteriorating relations between Korea and Japan. The national flag is a symbol of pride for the entire nation regardless of their political stances, according to a spokesperson for GS25.

Apart from the stickers, GS Retail will offer 11,415 eco bags that feature the easternmost islets of Dokdo in the East Sea starting next month with the goal of promoting Korea’s sovereignty over the disputed islets, which Japan also claims. The bags will be given out for free at all the company’s retail channels, which also include lalavla and GS fresh.

“We hope our patriotic campaigns that began last August could become an initiative for the entire nation to overcome the recent series of issues in Northeast Asia with a single heart,” said a spokesperson for GS Retail.

Beers are the main product convenience stores are using to boycott Japan.

Starting next month, GS25, CU, 7-Eleven and Emart24 will exclude Japanese beers from their four-cans-for-10,000 won ($8.50) promotion, which usually applies to all imported beers.

Sales of Japanese beer at CU stores in July plummeted 49 percent compared to the previous month, while those of domestic beer went up 6.3 percent during the same period. The on-year sales of imported beers, excluding Japanese beers, improved by 5.5 percent last month.

GS25 and 7-Eleven showed similar results.

Sales of Japanese beer at GS25 in July fell 40.1 percent on year, while sales of domestic beers rose 2.4 percent. Sales of Japanese beer at 7-Eleven stores in July dropped 32 percent compared to the previous month while those of domestic beers increased by 4.1 percent.

“Not all of our store owners agree with the idea of [discriminating] against Japanese goods, as they are responsible for selling the stocks they already carry,” said a source from the industry. “But many of the owners voluntarily suggested the need to join the boycott of Japanese products. After all, it’s not like we are banning the sales of Japanese goods.”

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]