Korean Wave Resurges in Japan

  • By Lee Ha-won

    June 23, 2020 13:12

    Diplomatic relations between Seoul and Tokyo are at an all-time low, but the Korean Wave is seeing a resurgence in Japan.

    Leading the trend most recently is the TV series "Crash Landing on You," which wrapped up here in February.

    The Asahi Shimbun recently focused on the hype in Japan about the Korean melodrama available on Netflix, reporting that Japanese fans are posting messages on social media saying they watched "Crash Landing on You" five times and that the soap was "the only source of happiness during lockdown."

    The latest edition of the weekly Shukan Asahi featured "Crash Landing on You" star Hyun Bin on its cover. The magazine said there has been a surge in Japanese women who are mesmerized by the heartthrob, who plays a North Korean soldier in the drama co-starring Son Ye-jin.

    The weekly also showcased the 20 must-see Korean dramas in a 10-page feature story including a color photo section.

    One Japanese journalist said, "The drama vividly describes the daily lives of ordinary North Koreans," which is the secret for its popularity. Yoji Komi, a former Seoul correspondent and presently an editorial writer for Tokyo Shimbun, wrote on Facebook, "I started learning the North Korean dialect" by watching "Crash Landing on You."

    In other genres, Bong Joon-ho's Academy Award-winning movie "Parasite" also drew huge interest early this year in the island country, becoming highest-grossing Korean film ever there. On Monday BTS topped the Oricon album sales chart for the first half of the year with their latest album "Map of the Soul: 7." They are the first foreign singers to achieve the feat since Michael Jackson's iconic album "Thriller" in 1984.

    The Asahi Shimbun assessed the latest developments as being the result of the Korean government's initiative of treating dramas and movies as key exports.

    There have been some distinct changes. Hideki Okuzono, a professor of international relations at the University of Shizuoka who focuses on Korean studies and also appeared in the 1990s Korean movie "General's Son" said, "One recent development is the fact that Japanese viewers no longer put Korea-Japan relations into perspective when watching Korean shows or films. They just want to see globally acclaimed work."

    And Soichi Tsukamoto at J. F. Oberlin University said that the Korean Wave is not limited to sugary pop culture any more. "An increasing number of Korean literary works are being translated and read in Japan, including the feminist novel 'Kim Ji-young, Born 1982.' This is a meaningful development."

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