In Japan, the First Korean Wave happened in 2000 and the Second Korean Wave has been happening since 2010 caused by the popularity of Korean dramas and their actors. Recently, many aspects of Korean culture, for example, Korean music such as K-pop, food, and cosmetics, pour into Japan, are very popular. The WASEDA Guardian takes a closer look at how the Korean Wave affects people and how Korean people in Japan feel about it.
Sun Kyoung Kim
Sun Kyoung Kim is an exchange student from Korea at Waseda University. When she was a high school student, she watched a Japanese drama in a third foreign language class. Since then, she became interested in Japan and started to study Japanese.
She talked about when she came to be proud of Korean culture by feeling the Korean Wave in Japan, seeing Korean singers on TV, and being questioned about Korean stars by her friends. And her impression of Japan has changed since she saw the Korean Wave directly. “No matter how near and familiar Japan and Korea are, they have some historic and political problems. And it seemed very big, especially in Korea. Meanwhile, I have not seen any big conflict since I came to Japan. If anything, I feel more of a connection with Japan and Korea through our cultures,” she said.
Based on these situations, she said “Cultural exchange is necessary for us.” She thinks that when some problems about the politics or the economy occur, people can solve the problems softly if they recognize each culture.
She is a third-year student and is starting to write her graduation thesis––“The relationship between soft power and hard power seen in the Korean Wave.” She thinks soft power can give us the key to settle problems with hard power, though it cannot be done perfectly.
▲ Korean restaurant in Japan. Photographed by Yuka Oyamada, The WASEDA Guardian
Choongkook Shin is in the second year at Waseda from Korea. He has both Japanese and Korean identities, raised by a Japanese mother and a Korean father. He started to learn Japanese in international school. Since then, he has been interested in the Japan-Korea relationship.
He said, “I think the Korean Wave in Japan has great meaning. When my mother visited Korea for the first time in 1990, she could not stay in any hotel no matter how much she paid. But now, about 3,000,000 Japanese visit Korea every year and cultural exchange is getting more active. It is really good that the prejudices are becoming less through cultural exchanges.”
“We can create a situation in which various people can talk about the historic problem thanks to the impact of cultural exchange. It cannot be solved by politics, but can be solved if the young Korean and Japanese face each other. That can be accomplished through cultural exchange, though I am not sure to what level the problem can be resolved. It is very meaningful that the cultural distances get closer.”
Moreover, Choongkook said that the different good points between Korea and Japan can be one of the triggers to make a good partnership. “I think Japanese are very sensitive to people. However, that good point can also be a weak point that they cannot talk honestly when caring about others too much. But that can be covered by Koreans’ good point, that they have individual initiatives, though this can also be a weak point that is careless and easily cooled down. These mutual supplementations can cover each other and make them good partners.”
▲ Korean food supermarket in Japan. Photographed by Yuka Oyamada, The WASEDA Guardian
Korean Cultural Center
The Korean Cultural Center is an organization of the Korean government, and supports people who do a variety of events and activities concerning the exchange of Japanese and Korean culture. They hold many events, for example, a K-POP contest for ordinary people since 2008, a special movie preview for mass media and so on. Dong-Sup Sim, director of the Korean Cultural Center, said that people can come to understand each other through the Korean Wave, and that is its most important point.
“If you understand the culture of other countries, a variety of power comes out. Until now the Japanese people did not know Korea. So finally with more people have a Korean Wave in Japan and go on to trip to Korea since 2000. I hoped to be able to gather information about Korea by many of drama, and so on.” In addition, he went in deepen understanding and it would become a relationship where both cooperate with each other. “I think the relationship between the two countries becomes better in such a connection, the relationship that works together.”
Explicit trust by getting to know each other is the relationship that works best together. Such a relationship may not be talking about the future. When the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred on March 11, 2011, it was the primary spark of the Korean Wave, and included Bae Yong Joon, a famous Korean actor. The Korean entertainer and many others have provided support and material donations.
It is not limited to celebrities, but is also among the common people, perhaps the result of cultural exchanges. He observed that this year celebrates the eighth “Korea-Japan Exchange Festival.” It is one of the events that is hosted by the Korean Cultural Center, and is carried out respectively in both Japan and Korea. The theme of “flight” was set this year. They will fly together for the development of the future, in that sense. Also, according to Sim, “Some people were in the Great Earthquake. I do have a feeling missing it is also the earthquake, and to allow you to return to life in general as soon as possible,” in the word “flight.” Team performance was also rushed from the Tohoku region, and also established the Great East Japan Earthquake charity fundraising booth.
It is possible that, together, the two can build a good partnership with their neighboring country, Japan and Korea, across the sea.
▲ K-pop related products in Japan. Photographed by Yuka Oyamada, The WASEDA Guardian
A Director of Korean Movies and Drama
Sung Chilryong has produced Korean drama in Japan. He grew up in Japan and never saw any Korean movies or drama until he was over 20. “The first time I watched a Korean movie, it was so good and I watched it about seven times.” At the same time, his friend also introduces him to a Korean drama. At first, he felt it was sort of “old fashioned” yet, as he watched, he became attracted, and then he watched all 64 episodes. “Every time, there were scenes that made me cry, or gave me some sort of encouragement, and I realized that Korean drama is fantastic. Since both the movies and the drama were so great, I thought if I bring these to Japan, Japanese people will be entertained.”
At that time, Sung Chilryong was free; he founded a company that produced Korean movies in Japan. He raised the thesis, “With good content, it will be embraced by both cultures.” Now he has produced many Korean movies and dramas in Japan. He also considers Japanese drama needs to compete with the Korean drama trend. “It cannot be one way forward. It has to stand on the same stage. I am concerned about Japanese drama, that it is not in a trend in opposition to Korean drama.” In order for Japanese drama to stand on the same stage as the Korean trend, he suggests that Japan has to be more enthusiastic. “I think Japanese drama has to be a trend like Korean drama. If it is not, the Japanese and Korean exchange of culture cannot get moving more.”
The Korean Wave and the Japanese Wave are not the only cultural trends, but necessary to support and enhance each other’s growth. It will be important to have contact with other countries through culture and understand each other in order to coexist in a global society.