A boycott of Japanese products in South Korea had an impact on Uniqlo sales there, the company said Friday, highlighting the growing economic impact of a diplomatic dispute over Tokyo's wartime role.
Japan's decision last month to tighten controls on exports of materials that South Korea uses to make semiconductors and smartphone screens sparked a consumer reaction in Korea, with consumers boycotting Japanese beer products to pens.
Relations between the two US allies are now worse off in decades. The dispute is rooted in compensation for forced labor during the occupation of Japan and South Korea repeatedly invoked its difficult history with Japan, which colonized the Korean peninsula during World War II.
"We can confirm that there was an impact on sales in Korea," said a Fast Retailing spokeswoman, owner of Uniqlo, who declined to cite numbers.
The company's recent decision to close a store in Seoul was unrelated to the boycott, the spokeswoman said, adding that the property contract had expired and the company decided not to renew.
Japan cited security concerns for the restrictions. The move, however, was also seen as retaliation after a South Korean court last year ordered Japanese companies to compensate Koreans who were forced to work for Japanese occupiers during World War II.
Japan has also removed South Korea from a list of favored trading partners.
Uniqlo is one of Japan's most visible brands globally outside the automotive and electronics sectors. It has close to 190 stores in South Korea, where it sells about 140 billion yen ($ 1,3 billion) of clothing a year, or 6,6% of its revenue.