Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Nationalism and the U.S.- Korea FTA

A recent Chosun Ilbo article examines the intersection of nationalism and economic growth in U.S.-Korea FTA debate.

The American auto industry is saying that Korean consumers would benefit from liberalizing trade restrictions on US automobiles; allowing more competition will increase the competitiveness of Korean cars. Interestingly, the FTA would include Japanese cars assembled in the US to enter the Korean market under the same parameters as American cars. In this article, the American CEO of the American Chamber of Commerce poses the question: Will Korean nationalism hinder the Korean economy?

There are myriad forms of expressing nationalism and purchasing power is one with very sharp teeth. In class we have learned of buy Korean campaigns that emerged during the Japanese Colonial period as an expression of early Korean nationalism. Given how much Korean nationalism plays in all aspects of contemporary life in Korea and has been a driving force in the development of the Korean economy, is nationalism preventing the FTA from gaining acceptance? If the FTA goes through, would another buy Korea campaign be a stronger expression of nationalism?

If prices and quality are comparable, I wonder if Koreans will continue to purchase Korean cars as an expression of nationalism that is rooted in anti-Japanese and anti-American sentiment.


Sean said...

In regard to your last comment, if prices and quality were comparable, Koreans would definitely buy foreign cars. Cars are a status symbol in Korea and the notion is that foreign cars are higher class. So even a Ford Taurus carries some cache in Korea. It's amazing to me how Koreans will purchase foreign cars at a HUGE mark-up.

If you watch any Korean dramas, it's REQUIRED that the cool male lead drive a nice foreign car.

Eric said...

007 in a 1989 Mercury hatchback Tracer. Now that's entertainment!

snowume said...

Sean is totally right in terms of purchase in Korea. Although Koreans often express anti-japanese sentiments, they love to associate themselves with Japanese or American products or fashion. It shows contradiction lying in korean nationalism.

Grace said...

In Korea, Lexus cars are being sold (of course at a huge mark-up) and people do purchase them as a status symbol. I saw several in a restaurant parking lot in Korea two years ago and was shocked over the fact that Japanese cars were being sold in Korea. When I asked my uncle about it, even he, an ardent nationalist, acknowledged the quality and name-value of Lexuses. So yes, it seems that Koreans are willing to drive Japanese cars, despite their political sentiment!

redbean said...

It's odd, but I just stumbled across a Chosun Ilbo article claiming this very thing--that Koreans really will buy Japanese if it's cheaper than the Korean equivalent. Apparently the weak yen has led Koreans recently to buy Japanese high-end goods, import Japanese food, and even travel more to Japan.