"Sockgate" and LCD price snitch puts South Korea in Taiwan's bad books

In a ”Letter from Taiwan’‘ postmarked 23 Nov 2010, and headlined ‘‘Electric socks spark Taiwan and South Korea dispute”, we explained how a controversy between Taiwan and South Korea at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China led to a minor athletics skirmish dubbed “Sockgate”. It’s still simmering, as the new year begins, and there’s no end in sight.

But now it seems the bad blood between sweet and sour Taipei and kimchi-fuelled Seoul is impacting sales of Samsung products in Taiwan, with a recent magazine survey indicating that most Taiwanese are now holding increasingly negative impressions of their hi-tech Asian neighbor to the northwest.

“I will never eat Korean food again, or watch any more Korean movies or TV shows,” Jonny Chen, an IT graduate student at Chung Cheng University in southern Taiwan told TechEye last month when the Asian games controversy erupted. “I will never set foot in that country, and even if they apologise for cheating Taiwan out of a gold medal at the Asian Games, I will never forgive them.”

Another student at Chung Cheng University said she didn’t ”hate” South Korea for the way its officials acted during the recent Taekwondo match in China, but she said she would never buy electronics made in South Korea again.

“I’m angry,” Ivy Tseng, 25, said. “If they treat us this way, I will buy my computers and phones from Japan or America. South Korea is in the doghouse, now, as far as I am concerned. Samsung is a dirty word in this country now. Maybe later, when all this blows over, I will forgive them, but for now, I dislike South Korea immensely. Don’t mess with Taiwan!”

When a restaurant in central Taiwan posted a handmade sign in its window in early December, reading, in Mandarin: “Long live our Taiwanese taekwondo champs; no Koreans welcome inside!”, most Taiwanese cheered.

Now comes a news article in a Taipei newspaper headlined: “Most Taiwanese dislike South Korea: magazine survey reports”.

More than half of those surveyed by Global Views Monthly, a Chinese-language magazine in Taiwan, said they are in favour of discontinuing imports of Korean products, including those of Samsung Electronics Co.

The business magazine conducted the survey specifically after the Taekwodo scandal at the Guangzhou Asian Games, where Taiwanese competitor Yang Shu-chun was controversially disqualified for wearing extra sensors in her socks.

But there’s more than just smelly ”Sockgate” operating here. Additionally impacting public opinion in Taiwan these days was the recent front-page news of South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. ”snitching” to the European Union about four Taiwanese makers of LCD panels for price-fixing.

Oops. And to maker matters worse, Samsung successfully evaded any fines itself.

The four Taiwan LCD firms were fined €649 million in total, according to news reports.

Amid signs that some members of the Taiwanese public are boycotting Korean products, 50.3 percent of those surveyed by the magazine said they supported such public boycotts.

The magazine surveyed a random sample of 1,000 people over the age of 15, from December 19 to 21.