The Sea of Japan: Maybe it really is a Sea of Peace
Posted by ampontan on Monday, January 29, 2007
The ebbing of the Korean Wave in Japanese popular culture has been well documented since early last year (scroll down). Not so long ago, it was difficult to turn on a television in Japan without stumbling across a Korean drama, but that’s no longer the case.
That the Korean Broadcast Institute offered excuses in their report rather than reasons makes one suspect they weren’t facing reality:
The report attributes the ebb in popularity with broadcasters to the fact that no Korean stars have emerged to fill the shoes of Bae Yong-joon or Choi Ji-woo, combined with the fact that Korean dramas are steadily losing their competitive edge to Chinese and Hong Kong dramas in terms of price….(Kim Yung-duk) stressed that Korea needs to come up with measures to secure channels to air Korean dramas by, for instance, starting a new channel in Japan or investing capital in the Japanese channels.
Bae is still around in Japan, but he often appears as a pitchman in commercials, which is much more lucrative than starring in a single drama series. In fact, he replaced Nakashima Shigeo, perhaps Japan’s most popular baseball player ever, as the commercial spokesman for one company when the latter suffered a stroke. Also, I’ve yet to see any Chinese or Hong Kong dramas on TV in Japan, though I live in Kyushu and that might be a Tokyo or Osaka phenomenon.
But the mention that South Korea might have to buy its way back on Japanese TV suggests they have a realistic grasp of the situation.
Be that as it may, a wave still flows between South Korea and Japan–but this time, it’s the Japan Wave in South Korea. Koreans are visiting Japan in record numbers, and many of them are coming to Kyushu. The flight from anywhere in South Korea to Kyushu is shorter than the one to Tokyo, and high speed jetfoils can comfortably depart from Busan after breakfast and reach the Port of Hakata by lunchtime.
The extent of Korean tourism in Kyushu was highlighted by a report in the Nishinippon Shimbun that sales of the SUNQ (Thank you) pass for unlimited bus travel on long-distance and route buses throughout Kyushu, offered by 46 regional bus companies, soared beyond 20,000 for the period from April to December 2006. The primary factor behind the surge was South Korean interest. A regional breakdown of sales shows that 73% of the passes were sold in Kyushu, 22% in South Korea, and 4.9% in Tokyo. South Korea accounted for 36% of all sales in December alone.
This has prompted Nishitetsu, the largest bus company in Kyushu, to sign agreements with Korean travel agents to sell the pass. The most popular bus routes start in Fukuoka City and extend to Huis ten Bosch in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture; the hot springs area of Beppu, Oita Prefecture; and the Aso area of Kumamoto Prefecture. (Mt. Aso is an active volcano with the largest crater in the world.)
The Koreans aren’t just taking the bus, either. The regional railway, JR Kyushu, reports that sales of their Rail Pass for unlimited express train travel, available only to foreigners, climbed 35% year-on-year during the same nine-month period. More than 70% of these passes are purchased by South Koreans.
Two things would seem to be obvious from this report:
- If the South Koreans couldn’t stand Japan or the Japanese, they wouldn’t be coming in such large numbers.
- If the South Koreans weren’t welcomed cordially by the Japanese, they wouldn’t want to come in such large numbers.
It might be well to keep that in mind the next time you read or hear a superficial comment in the media taking it as given that the citizens of both countries get along like cats and dogs (or dogs and monkeys, as they say in Japan). That’s just the mess media promotion of their facile narrative to maintain interest in their own product, or sloppy work by third-country media sources too lazy to look for the real story. The media have lost their credibility in every other area, so why would anyone think they have any here?
In fact, what we may be seeing is the emergence of a new Silent Majority—the people of South Korea and Japan who actually get on well with each other!