2011 trends: Korean boom spreads to a new generation

December 23rd, 2011 by Felicity Hughes

The news that Korean girl group Kara will be performing on “Kohaku Uta Gassen,” a widely watched New Year’s TV show that features Japan’s top artists, is further proof that the Korean boom is here to stay. As K-pop continues to dominate the charts, it’s now an irrefutable fact that the craze for all things Korean has crossed over to the younger generation and officially become cool.

Ginza K Place, opened in September this year features handsome young Korean artists

Though an older generation of Japanese women have been swooning over handsome Korean actors for years, now the younger generation is hooked on the upfront sexiness of acts like Girls’ Generation and Kara. Along with getting into the music, many fans have developed a curiosity about all things Korean, which has lead to growing numbers of young Japanese hitting the streets of Shin-Okubo, Tokyo’s Korea town.

Aside from the spicy cuisine, one of the biggest draws in Shin-Okubo is K-pop music hall Seichi, which opened in April this year. Performances by young Korean musicians are held three times a day and groups of fans can be seen waiting outside for performances on the streets. Also opening in April this year was the K Theatre, located in the slightly more upmarket Ebisu area. Further uptown a third venue opened in September. Rather more pricey, Ginza K Place caters to the older diehard fans who come to swoon over attractive male Korean singers.

But don’t let this lead you to believe all Japanese are enamored with Korean entertainment. This year Japan witnessed a rather ugly backlash against the trend for airing Korean dramas on Japanese TV. Five-hundred protesters gathered outside of Fuji TV headquarters to protest against the channel’s programming policy. The protest was sparked off by a tweet from disgruntled actor Sousuke Takaoka. Takaoka wrote: “I’ll never watch Channel 8 (Fuji TV) again. I often think it’s Korean TV. Japanese people want traditional Japanese programs.” Predictably, the nationalist far right rallied around his whine and mobilized the 2chan forces.

The summer’s skirmish aside, the Korean phenomena is likely to continue apace in 2012. Nikkei Women is predicting that Japanese women will be embracing the latest Korean cosmetic trend: a beauty cream called Prestige cream d’escargot made from snail entrails that is all the rage in Seoul.

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6 Responses

  1. Felicity, are you not aware that Fuji TV is majority-owned by foreign companies, including Korean ones?

    Ever since this happened, Korean content has dominated the channel.

    I can’t see what was so wrong with the actor saying the channel no longer even felt Japanese – here in Canada, we have laws that limit foreign content and promote local content in media. Of course, this extends to foreign controlling interests.

    Japan has these laws too, but they have completely brushed aside by Fuji TV and its majority shareholders.

    Takaoka is not one of these irrelevant, sad far-rightists. Nor is he anything near those Korean protestors burning Japanese flags. Nor has anything in Japan ever approached Korea’s anti-Japanese laws that prohibited Japanese media in Korea until very recently. Japan has never, in turn, limited Korean media here – then or now.

    Not even when its own laws on the foreign ownership of media are flouted.

  2. She never stated that there was anything wrong with it.. She just stated the fact that not all Japanese people embrace Korean Culture. But as seen by the article, majority of people actually WANT Korean Drama and pop. If they didn’t want it, they would switch to a different channel and ratings would fail Fuji TV. I think you need to read more carefully, as this has nothing to do with policy but rather consumer desires. And while as Japanese are considered war criminals in the Korean point of view (Comfort woman, mistreatment, etc) Japanese people have to right to hate Koreans. It was the Japanese who offended Korean and Chinese people in WWII, not the other way around. Let someone go over to your country, take your land, rape your women, and lets see how you view their media or their flag. You fail to approach this in a coherent manner.

  3. @ Joshua,

    you’re posting an Anti-Japanese sentiment. Where do you get the information about the majority of Japanese actually want Korean Drama and anything Korea in Japan? I like to see that fact of your?

    Here’s the top 10 rating for JDrama for 2011:

    Final Rankings

    1. Kaseifu no Mita 40%
    2. JIN 26.1%
    3. Marumo no Okite 23.9%
    4. Aibou (Season 10) 23.7%
    5. Teppan 23.6%
    6. Gou 22.6%
    7. Ohisama 22.6%
    8. Wataru Seken wa Oni Bakari 22.2%
    9. Ikiteru Dake de Nankurunaisa (24 hour TV special) 22.2%
    10. Antarctica 22.2%


    Non of which are Korean Drama. Just look at Korean movies in Japanese box Office, you won’t find any that even made more then a few million.

    There is no question that the Korean Kdrama and Kpop is a runaway successful story in Japan, the same can probably never be said about JDrama or Jpop in Korea.

    Your point of view are those of a gaijin, neither Japanese or Korean. You have no right to be talking about WWII as if it happened yesterday or it remotely affected your life. What happened remain in the history book and it should not be a trivia for you to exploit.

    On a final note, If Korean considered all Japanese war criminals then why is Korea training their singers and actors to speak Japanese and act Japanese? Why try to even bother to make money off the war criminals?

  4. @Gaijin
    He’s not posting anti-Japanese sentiment, he’s posting what some Koreans think. I’ll say up front that I’m a waegukin/gaikokujin, but I’m interested in both Korean and Japanese culture, and also very much so in Korean-Japanese relations.
    The point Joshua was making is that if no one wanted to watch news about Korean things, then Fuji would either change its programming or have to shutdown from lack of viewers. Also, that list you posted clearly says “Oricon’s Top Japanese Dramas of 2011”; in other words, this is only a list of Japanese dramas, so of course there aren’t any Korean dramas on there.
    And it’s interesting that someone who clearly isn’t a native English speaker, and judging by what he or she is commenting on and the positions taken is likely Japanese, is talking about history, considering the way in which Japanese textbooks are routinely edited to exclude content on the colonization of the Korean peninsula. Some of your countrymen need to learn from the humility of the Germans.
    And Japan was, until last year, the second largest music market in the world, and the move from South Korea to Japan is clearly much more natural than from South Korea to the U.S. Many Koreans may still be angry about what happened in the past, but I think many more are looking to the future, and so want to engage their neighbor to the east.
    Bringing up an event in history isn’t racism, and neither is choosing to listen to music from another country. It’s a big deal that the Korean wave is big in Japan, but the fact that it’s showing cultural exchanges happening between Koreans and Japanese is much, much more important.

  5. @Joshua
    The problem is, there’s no evidence that Japanese people actually do want any of it, especially not the “majority”.

    -If you look at the viewing figures, the percentage made up by Korean dramas is negligible

    -The top 20 karaoke chart for November 2011 had one Kara song, one Girls Generation song, and the rest were by Japanese artists

    -Last year a survey was carried out asking young Tokyo women whether they had any interest in Jang Geun Seok (who is *plastered* across the Japanese media right now) and around 75% said they had none

    -It’s been reported that the majority of enthusiastic fans who gather at Japanese airports to greet newly-arrived Korean celebrities are paid to be there

    -A 2011 end-of-year K-Pop concert in Osaka had to be cancelled owing to poor ticket sales

    -In 2010 Uniqlo put out a special line of T shirts for Big Bang (apparently one of the biggest Korean boy bands), but in the main Tokyo stores they ended up in the clearance section

    These companies can continue to report about how popular Korean culture is in Japan all they want. It still doesn’t make it factual.

    And Felicity, you call the very mild protest carried out against Fuji TV an ‘ugly backlash’. What, pray tell would you call some of these: http://www.who-sucks.com/people/the-exciting-world-of-south-korean-protests

  6. Gwyn, do you live in Japan? Because if you did, you would know it’s very factual. Korean groups (and their music) are in ads, on signs, everywhere. There were several K-Pop festivals at Makuhari Messe last year that drew thousands upon thousands of fans (I saw them, believe me).

    There’s 5 main music channels on Sky Perfect – all of them show K-Pop at all hours. Boy bands, girl bands.

    I’m not sure what part of Japan you are in that you think K-Pop isn’t a phenomenon in Japan, but in Kanto it very obviously is. Is it more popular than Japanese entertainment? Nah. But it’s at least as popular if not more than other foreign entertainment.


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