(AFP) – The head of a major South Korean cosmetics firm resigned yesterday after facing heavy backlash for forcing his staff to watch a YouTube video praising Japan during a raging trade war between the two nations.
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The clip, played at a monthly meeting of some 700 employees of Kolmar Korea last week, slams President Moon Jae-in’s response to Japan’s trade regulations and praises Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for “not punching Moon in the face”.
The video also refers to Venezuela’s crippling economy, where “women are going into prostitution for mere seven dollars”, and adds that South Korea is not far from meeting a similar fate.
The incident triggered massive public fury and mounted calls to boycott the company, which supplies dozens of cosmetics brands worldwide.
Yoon Dong-han, chairman of Kolmar Korea, apologised on Sunday for “stirring up trouble” and said he will step down from his post.
“I apologise to the consumers and the Korean people who trusted and loved our products,” he said, adding: “I would particularly like to offer my sincere apologies to women.”
Seoul and Tokyo are embroiled in a bitter trade and diplomatic dispute over a series of South Korean court rulings ordering Japanese firms to pay for forced labour during Tokyo’s colonisation of the peninsula.
The feud has seen Japan impose new export restrictions crucial to South Korean tech giants in July and led to the two neighbours removing each other from their lists of trusted trade partners earlier this month.
South Koreans have launched a widespread boycott of Japanese goods since July, which saw sales of Japanese cars drop more than 30US and forced several airlines to suspend routes to their neighbour because of falling demand.
The company issued a separate apology last week saying only part of the video was shown with the intention to train its staff to “have a correct sense of history rather than reacting emotionally”.