|Coupang's open market sells Japanese kamikaze headband online / Yonhap|
By Kim Jae-heun
Coupang, Korea's largest e-commerce firm, has again come under criticism for allowing the sale of controversial products on its platform.
Most recently, a headband with the Japanese word "kamikaze" emblazoned across it drew the public's ire. Kamikaze refers to Japanese military aviators who flew suicide attacks against the allied nations during World War II.
Apple Pie, the seller, listed the item as "Japanese flag cotton headband" and included the words "kamikaze" in English and "suicide" in Korean in the product name listing.
In the product description, the seller wrote "this is a spiritual item used in Japan for mental concentration and improvement of discipline, which is a must-have item for test takers."
The online listing went viral as did the outpouring of criticism from the public towards Coupang for allowing the sale of the item.
"Coupang should have screened out such a product. The product is a remnant of Japanese colonialism. It should not be available for sale online just on the basis of the word suicide that is written on the head band in Japanese," one Coupang customer said.
Coupang has since taken down the item from its open market platform.
"We do not allow illegal or improper goods for sale on our platform and if we find something wrong with the goods registered by the seller, we immediately stop their sale," a Coupang official said. "We will continue to monitor such products and filter them out."
This is not the first time Coupang has been embroiled in a controversy over questionable items.
In November, the e-commerce firm was hit over the listing of counterfeit Rolex watches.
According to the Korea Watch & Clock Industry Cooperative (KOWIC), Coupang allowed 684 imitation luxury watches to be listed for sale on its platform.
Korean law states that the selling of counterfeit goods is illegal making sellers of such goods liable to prosecution yet the platforms upon which they trade their wares bear no responsibility.
KOWIC filed a claim against Coupang for damages after small- and medium-sized companies saw a decline in sales due to flourishing fake Rolex items there.
KOWIC said local fashion watchmakers selling products in the same price range as the imitation luxury watches, lost billions of won due to the counterfeiting.
Coupang took immediate action saying it would establish a 100-strong taskforce to monitor sales of illegal products. The e-commerce firm also said it operated an artificial intelligence (AI) system to filter out counterfeit luxury goods.
"It seems like their AI system is not good enough at screening out improper items. To keep its top position in the e-commerce sector, Coupang's No.1 priority should be to solve this problem," an industry official said.