Under the radar in Japan-Korean relations
Posted by ampontan on Monday, August 20, 2007
IT’S IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER that regardless of the impression one may get from the media, the relationship between Japan and South Korea is quite mature in most areas except for the political sector. Here’s another example: the recent announcement that Kyushu University in Fukuoka City and Busan National University in Busan, South Korea, will conduct a joint lecture course in the fall semester to be taught by the same group of professors using the same textbooks. The Japanese education ministry says this will probably be the first time one of the country’s national universities (as opposed to a private school) conducts a joint course with an overseas university.
The course will be called “Future-Oriented Perspectives on the Japan-South Korean Relationship”. (In Japan, anyway; I’m sure they’ll turn that last bit around in Busan.) Both schools will contribute seven professors, who will deliver their lectures at both campuses. (The plane trip between the cities takes just under an hour, and a high-speed jetfoil makes the trip by sea in three hours.)
The students will examine bilateral ties from several angles, including politics, economics, and law. Specific topics to be covered include “Japanese-South Korean Popular Culture and the Mass Media”, “East Asian Regionalism and Japan from the Korean Perspective”, and “Marriage and the Family in Japan and South Korea”. The content of the lectures will be the same at both universities, and they will be delivered in English.
Kyushu University plans to offer the course to third- and fourth-year students and graduate students, while Busan University will place no restrictions on enrollment. The two universities signed an academic exchange agreement in 1986, but have done little together until now. The impetus for the joint lectures came when prominent private-sector citizens from the two cities inaugurated the Fukuoka-Busan Forum last September, to which both universities sent representatives. They agreed during the forum to expand academic ties, and preparations for the course began then.
An official with Busan National University was quoted as saying he hoped students would be able to compare their reactions and their thinking in regard to all the subjects discussed, as well as exchange opinions, at least indirectly. Meanwhile, a Kyushu University official said he hoped the course would help foster a new generation in both countries that could create a bilateral relationship based on interdependence.
Ordinarily, most studies of popular culture at a university are good for little more than killing time, but that particular lecture has the potential to be educational if conducted honestly, with a frank examination of how the South Koreans borrowed from the Japanese during the years when Japanese pop culture was banned in the country. The ban was lifted in 1998 on magazines, comic books, non-age-restricted movies, award-winning animated films, TV documentaries, computer games, and non-Japanese language music recordings. The country later lifted the prohibition on live musical performances and music sales, though pirated versions and Internet MP3 files had been available.
From the opposite direction, of course, was the recent wave of Korean TV dramas and such singers as BoA. In fact, NHK radio subjected its audience to a BoA song just this morning.
As this BBC article noted in 2004:
Some say the ban on Japanese culture had degenerated over the decades into little more than trade protectionism.
“Unfortunately in the past Korean artists would rip off Japanese music because they thought no-one would notice,” says Bernie Cho of MTV.
That quibble aside, doesn’t this all go to show yet again that politicians are always the last to get it?
N.B.: This is taken from a Japanese-language report in the Nishinippon Shimbun written by their Korean correspondent. Links in Japanese newspapers disappear as quickly as ice cubes in August, so I haven’t provided one. This is a quick summary.
N.B. #2: The South Koreans have expended considerable energy over the years in banning Japanese culture, and recently there was a national debate over their FTA with the U.S. that required the liberalization of restrictions on screening Hollywood films. But that view is not only narrow-minded, it is also self-defeating. Tyler Cowen of George Mason University has argued for some time now that the globalization of culture is a very old phenomenon, it has resulted in the creation of art forms that we mistakenly think are pure and indigenous, and it in fact encourages rather than hinders local creativity.
He has also noted that French cuisine hasn’t died out in France, despite the highest per capita rate of McDonald’s outlets in Europe, nor has Hong Kong’s many outlets kept it from being the world’s capital for Chinese cuisine. Here is one of his articles, in .pdf, that summarizes his position. Of interest to those who would protect Korean cinema is this article, in which he uses a similar French quota on overseas films to argue that “Protection actually decreases an industry’s chance of competing successfully in world markets.”