[EDITORIALS]Let the (Japanese) show go onJapan’s Shiki Theater Company has announced that it is putting on indefinite hold any plans to locate in Seoul. The large Japanese troupe decided that the Korea Performance Producers Association’s vocal opposition to its plans was enflaming anti-Japanese sentiment.
The Korean producers’ association claims that the Japanese company is not pursuing a legal cultural exchange venture, but, rather, intends to “invade our market.” It is true that Koreans cannot help but tend to think negatively about Japan in light of the suffering Korea endured under colonial rule. That is why we should be all the more careful in using words that could enflame national sentiments. This is all the more true when the matter at hand is not an outright wrong, such as Japanese textbooks trying to distort historical truth.
Korean theater is going through hard times; all that is keeping it afloat is the musical. The Korean musical industry has lately been growing by 10 to 15 percent per year. Last year, total sales topped 60 billion won ($50 million). With large businesses starting to venture into the industry, there are now even plans to set up theaters for long-run performances.
In light of this reality, it is difficult to agree that Shiki’s entrance into the Korean market would lead to market encroachment. As the troupe is one of the biggest in Japan, with an abundant repertory and more than 500 actors and actresses, it is true that its venture into Korea could make things difficult for the domestic industry, which is still growing. But locking our doors is not the solution. Government policies, such as supporting the production of original musicals, and the efforts of those involved in the industry are key to the solution. Even if competition becomes stiff, this is not all bad; it would only raise the quality of the industry in the end. Even now, there are many who prefer Korean musicals to foreign ones. The opening of our doors to popular Japanese culture, something cultural industry insiders fretted about for years, began six years ago, and yet Korean culture is taking Japan by storm, not vice versa.
Are we going to remain “frogs in a well” when others are opening their doors to us? We will not survive in this era of change if we do so. If we continue to try blocking the venture of foreign cultural industries into our country, we will only be the laughingstock of the world.