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Typhoon Disrupts Production in Southern Japan

South Korean automaker Hyundai is introducing one of its main models into the Japanese market.

Hyundai Japan President Toshiro Sugawara says the Sonata mid-sized sedan is priced between $20,000 to $25,000 to compete with two-liter engine Japanese models.

Mr. Sugawara says the launch of the Sonata is a big opportunity for the Korean automaker to make significant inroads in the market here. Hyundai has less than one-percent of the Japanese market compared with more than a 2.5 percent share of the U.S. market.

The five-seat Sonata is being introduced in Japan with an advertising campaign featuring South Korean actor Bae Yong-joon, who is hugely popular with Japanese women for his starring role in a romantic television series titled "Winter Sonata."

In southern Japan, Typhoon Nabi forced a number of automobile and electronics makers to suspend production for a few days.

Toyota, Mazda and Mitsubishi all report they had to shut down car and truck factories during the week.

Power outages and flooding disrupted work at plants making everything from liquid-crystal panels to synthetic resin.

Analysts say the killer storm hit at a particularly inauspicious time for manufacturers because many have been operating at full capacity to meet rising demand for exports as Japan's economy tries to claw its way out of long stagnant period.

Japanese Agriculture Minister Mineichi Iwanaga ordered 14 regional task forces established to cope with damage caused by Typhoon Nabi. Mr. Iwanaga says the storm may have damaged farm production nationwide, so information needs to be gathered quickly to come up with measures to cope with the disaster.

Meteorologist Masaru Kida at Japan's Weathernews says the disruptions are not surprising because the typhoon dumped a record amount of rain on some communities. Mr. Kida says Typhoon Nabi may have been category-four storm by U.S. standards, the intensity of Hurricane Katrina in the southern United States.

That storm in the southern United States has raised some concerns in Japan about grain imports. But the Agriculture Ministry says that while Katrina damaged the infrastructure at ports that ship U.S. corn and soybeans to Japan, shortages are unlikely.

Ministry officials say Japan has several months of inventory and reserves. Shipments to Japan from New Orleans and surrounding areas account for 70-percent of Japan's corn consumption and 60-percent of its soybean consumption.