Japan from the inside out

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:

  1. If the South Koreans couldn’t stand Japan or the Japanese, they wouldn’t be coming in such large numbers.
  2. 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!

9 Responses to “The Sea of Japan: Maybe it really is a Sea of Peace”

  1. […] from Busan after breakfast and reach the Port of Hakata by lunchtime. The blogger believes that the emergence of a new Silent Majority from both sides can eventually bring peace in the region. Oiwan […]

  2. GI Korea said

    Koreans and Japanese do get along just fine. In Korea there are Japanese tourists all over the place and no one bothers them likewise in Japan with Korean tourists. There is no stigma for Koreans to go visit Japan or even work there. However, just because they get along doesn’t mean they like each other. Just about every Korean I meet dislikes the Japanese. My wife’s friend is married to a Japanese man and even she told me she dislikes the Japanese. When I asked her about her husband she said well he is different from the typical Japanese. There has been for years a silent majority in Korea that gets along with the Japanese but I wouldn’t confuse that for liking the Japanese.

  3. ampontan said

    GI Korea:

    What it seems like you might be saying is that Koreans hate Japanese in the abstract, but don’t have any problems with them when they actually come face to face with them.

    In other words, what they don’t like is a concept they have created, but they don’t mind the material thing itself.

    Heck, that sounds more insular than the Japanese used to be, and Korea’s only a “half-island”. (That’s the word for peninsula in Japanese, and it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s what it was in Korean, too.)

  4. GI Korea said

    Hate is too strong a word. I prefer to use the word dislike. There was a time that Koreans hated the Japanese but those days are long gone. However the dislike of the Japanese will continue as long as issues such Dokdo and Yasukuni continue to strain relations every time a politician on both sides of the Sea of Japan, East Sea, Sea of Peace or whatever the name of that body of water is this week, need to rile people up for political reasons.

  5. […] Ampontan suggests that maybe there is a rise of silent majority between Japan and Korea that get along: […]

  6. Kentaki said

    I no longer live in Japan, so I cannot speak for them. However, I disagree that the Koreans and the Japanese get along. Maybe superficially, I guess. I used to believe that the mutual sentiment was of something past. That changed after I started to frequent a bulletin board called “Enjoy Korea.” The thing I do not understand like other Japanese there, many Koreans (not all) freely embrace Japanese products including illegaly downloaded porn (we call this “kahanshin shinnichi”). But they are not anywhere “liking” us. They just simply like Japanese products or something (e.g. visiting hotsprings, going to ski, etc.). Also, NHK did a survey a while ago, and according to the result, about 90% of Japanese do not like the Koreans. I probably don’t think that was a scietific survey, though.

  7. ampontan said

    It’s more than just products: There are a lot of Korean students at Japanese universities, and they get along fine. Many of them work at part-time jobs in Japan to supplement their income, and they have no problem getting jobs at all, or getting along with the people at work.

  8. James A said

    Koreans are everywhere in Japan. I’ve seen plenty of them in the little down that I reside in. Either many of them are wives of Japanese men or company workers (There’s a big ALPS factory in town).

    I remember seeing this girl from a university in Seoul at a small concert. She was doing a little homestay nearby. She was enjoying her stay quite a bit, and she was very bright. She could speak both English and Japanese very well. Meeting her helped debunk the usual sensationalist prattle that tends to cloud up relations between the two countries.

  9. HJC said

    Kentaki, the survey that u talk about where 90% of Japanese said they disliked koreans is incorrect. 90% of Japanese said they disliked NORTH Korea. Over 55% of Japananese people said they liked South Korea however…

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