Anime 'Doraemon' Latest Victim of Japan-South Korea Trade War

'Stand by Me Doraemon'

A boycott of Japanese products has been growing as a political spat with historical roots impacts sectors from beer to cars to movies.

The Korean release of the latest installment of Doraemon, Japan's biggest anime franchise, has been postponed indefinitely as a trade war between the Asian neighbors continues to escalate.

Doraemon: Nobita's Chronicle of the Moon Exploration, the 39th feature in the tales of the blue, "cat-type robot" and his human sidekick, schoolboy Nobita, is the latest victim in the Tokyo-Seoul spat.

Last month Butt Detective: The Movie was also caught up in the growing boycott of Japanese goods, services and companies. The film, a spinoff from a children's book and anime TV series about a detective with a head shaped like a backside, had received maximum scores on South Korean review websites on its release, but got a bum deal after the sites were hit with posts calling for cinemagoers to boycott Japanese films.

The current row was triggered when Japan announced July 1 that it was placing export restrictions to South Korea on materials used in manufacturing semiconductors, a major Korean industry. Tokyo accused Seoul of breaking sanctions on North Korea, but the move was widely seen as retaliation for a Korean court ruling that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has to pay compensation to Koreans forced to work for the company during World War II.

In response, some South Koreans have boycotted Japanese stores, canceled trips to Japan, while a number of gas stations were reportedly refusing to fill up Japanese cars. Japanese food and beer sales have dropped sharply and one plastic surgery clinic is offering discounts to those who can prove they had canceled a vacation to Japan.

The row further escalated Friday when Japan confirmed it was removing South Korea from its so-called white list of preferred trading partners. The government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had been promoting itself as a guardian of free trade, in contrast to the fractious policies of President Trump, but has now embroiled itself in a tit-for-tat spat with one of its nearest neighbors.

Doraemon is a multibillion-dollar franchise of manga, TV anime, features and merchandise based on the original manga by Hiroshi Fujimoto and Motoo Abiko, who together created the character working under the name Fujiko F. Fujio. The manga debuted in 1970, with a short-lived anime series airing a few years later. A new series, beginning in 1979, ran for nearly 1,800 episodes, winning fans across Asia from India to Hong Kong, as well as becoming a cultural icon.

The theatrical anime film series overtook Godzilla to become the most watched in Japanese cinematic history, with a total of more than 125 million admissions.

In 2015, Stand by Me Doraemon became the first Japanese film released in China in three years after Tokyo-Beijing relations improved, and went to take nearly $87 million there, boosting its global box office to $183 million. The latest installment took more than $18 million in China.