This picture taken on August 27, 2019 shows people walking along a street in the Shin-Okubo district, known as Tokyo's Korean town lined with small shops, most of them selling Korean food and pop-culture items. (Photo by Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP)

TOKYO, – In the “little Seoul” area of Tokyo, Japanese shoppers flock to get their fix of K-pop and Korean face cream, seemingly shrugging off a deep freeze in Japan-South Korean ties.

Visitors to Shin-Okubo could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled into a district in Seoul, with rows of restaurants serving kimchi and music shops selling the latest K-pop hits from BTS or Wanna One.

And in contrast to South Korea where anger over a deterioration in bilateral ties has sparked consumer boycotts of Japanese goods, it seems it takes more than a political spat to put off avid fans of Korean products.

“I love everything, K-pop, the food, the clothes. I would also like the two countries to make up,” said Anna Kaneko, a 19-year-old student making one of her regular trips to Shin-Okubo with a friend.

The latest row is deeply rooted in the bloody history between the two, particularly Tokyo’s occupation of the peninsula as a colony, during which hundreds of thousands were forced to come to Japan as labour and women forced into brothels as wartime sex slaves.

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Koreans remaining in Japan after Tokyo’s defeat in World War II suffered discrimination and hardship and several exist to this day in a grey zone in terms of citizenship.

The diplomatic friction has culminated in tit-for-tat trade restrictions and the scrapping of a military information-sharing pact between the two — alarming the United States which has security treaties with both.

Bae Cheo-leun, who runs an organisation bringing together South Koreans in Japan, admitted that a few years ago “hate speech” against Koreans could be heard in the streets around Shin-Okubo but this has not been the case during the most recent row.

“There was a law brought in to prevent it which has proved effective, even though there is no real punishment,” Bae told AFP. (AFP)



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