Korean Copies of Japanese Products

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    A Japanese TV report about snack companies in South Korea that have been blatantly copying some of Japan’s most famous products:

    Since there was just a scandal involving bugs in Pepero, a Korean copy of Japan’s famous Pocky snack, this news report aired to remind Japanese viewers about the ongoing existence of Korean copies.

    After taking a look at several of these copies, they ask random people on the street in Japan and Korea to comment. Both Japanese and Korean people think the copying is blatant and it is not a good thing. Few of the Koreans seem aware that so many popular Korean products are copies of popular Japanese products. One Korean guy notes how people in his country always speak ill of China for copying products, but Korea has been doing the same thing!

    [The report ends with the older news anchor laughing about how it is similar to Japan during the immediate postwar period, when there were many Coca-cola knock-offs. His example, however, may not be exactly relevant because the term “cola” had already been recognized as a generic term at that point in history. Companies like Pepsi-Cola had been using “cola” in their name for years.]

    Here are some of the examples shown in the report:

    The Japanese vitamin/energy drink Ripobitan D has been sold since 1962. South Korea’s Bacchus D energy drink, which has the same label design and similar ingredients, has been sold since 1963. When asked about the striking similarities, the company claimed it was just a coincidence.

    Kinoko no Yama snacks have been sold in Japan since 1975. A similar product popped up years later in Korea. When reporters called the Korean manufacturer and asked why the products were so similar, the company spokesman refused to comment.

    There have also been more recent examples, such as Korea’s “17 Tea,” which has been sold since 2005. The manufacturer denies copying Japan’s much older and much more famous “16 Tea” and says its ingredients are totally different.

    There is at least one case of a Japanese company taking legal action against Korean manufacturers who are violating trademarks. In 2004, Morinaga sued the Korean company that makes “My Chew” – a copy of its “Hi Chew” snacks. This TV report mentions that the two companies reached a settlement. [I am not sure of the details. The Japanese Wikipedia entry for trademark infringement states that the lawsuit was rejected by a Korean court in 2005.]

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