Fresh Korean Wave Sweeps Japan's Millennials

  • By Song Hye-jin

    November 17, 2021 13:25

    Another Korean Wave is sweeping through Japan as a new generation settles into maturity and embraces Korean dramas on TV and Netflix.

    Today's fans are the children of the housewives who first lapped up the Korean soap opera "Winter Sonata" in 2004, and they grew up with K-pop idol bands like Big Bang and TWICE. Now they are older, they have discovered a taste for anything Korean from dramas and movies to cosmetics, fashion and food.

    Unlike their parents' generation, they are less affected by historic squabbles between the two neighbors that inflame elderly patriots on both sides.

    Last month, Japanese entertainment media Goal announced that this year's top buzzword was "Squid Game," the dystopian Korean series that took Netflix by storm worldwide. Last year's top buzzword was "Crash Landing on You," a soap about a wealthy heiress who lands in North Korea while hang gliding and falls in love with a military officer. 

    Park Ye-eun, a 33-year-old Korean working for a Japanese broadcaster in Tokyo, said, "In the past, only some people talked about Korean TV dramas, but now I hear everyone from new recruits to team directors in their 40s talking about them."

    Four out of the top 10 most watched programs on Netflix in Japan as of Tuesday were Korean dramas.

    Japanese people who enjoy the shows are also avid consumers of Korean food, fashion and cosmetics. Costco in Tokyo regularly holds Korean food promotions, and sales of CJ Cheiljedang's vinegar-based drink Micho surged from W5 billion in 2015 to W130 billion in 2020 (US$1=W1,181). A CJ Cheiljedang staffer said, "Japanese women started looking for Micho when they saw someone drink water mixed with vinegar on a Korean TV show." 

    Shoppers wait to taste Korean food in a superstore in Kanagawa, Japan on Tuesday.

    Japanese online retailer Rakuten surveyed the fashion preferences of customers and found that a majority preferred Korean styles.

    Due to the renewed Korean Wave in Japan, many companies are rushing to market their products there. Brandi, a shopping platform that started in the Dongdaemun garment market in Seoul, launched services in Japan last month. Japanese clothes retailers can order clothes directly from Dongdaemun merchants.

    CJ Olive Young, Korea's No. 1 health and beauty retail chain, also launched Japanese-language services on its website earlier this month, and household and beauty product maker Aekyung opened its own brand corner on Japanese online shopping website Qoo10Japan earlier this month to sell Kerasys hair products and cosmetics.

    "Preference for Korean products is spreading in Japan from young customers to those in the middle-aged, middle-income bracket with more purchasing power," an industry insider said. 

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