[FOUNTAIN]‘Korea wave’ a warning as well as a gift

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[FOUNTAIN]‘Korea wave’ a warning as well as a gift

The “Korean wave” in Japan is still at its peak. A score of Korean actors, led by Yon-sama Bae Yong-jun and Byon-sama Lee Byeong-heon, are increasingly popular among Japanese, and Korean movies continue to be exported to Japan.
The trend is not limited in the capital, Tokyo. On October 21, a lecture on the Korean wave was held at ACROS Hall, a civic center in Fukuoka. The lecture hall on the eighth floor was filled with over 100 middle-aged Japanese men and women. The lecturer was Professor Matsubara Takatoshi of Kyushu University’s Korean Studies Center. The audience was captivated by the funny, eloquent lecture of the scholar with a short, silvery goatee. He said that the negative perception of the Japanese towards Korea was going through a revolutionary change in 2004.
Behind the phenomenon is the television series “Winter Sonata.” Over a million copies of the series soundtrack CD have been sold.
How could “Winter Sonata,” whose fans are mostly Japanese housewives, become the leading element of the Korean wave? According to Ogawa Junko, the NHK producer who introduced the series in Japan, “Winter Sonata” reminded the Japanese audience of the values that have disappeared in Japan, such as romance, love of the family and respect for elders.
However, the more notable point is that the script has been modified. Originally, the Korean series targeted young viewers in their 20s and 30s, a group in Japan that does not watch television dramas much. So the producer recreated the tasteful and beautiful dialogues to accommodate the sentiment of the over-40 age group. “Winter Sonata,” as aired on NHK, was a re-created Japanese drama.
The meaning of the re-creation is profound. We sometimes sneer at Japanese for imitating and assimilating foreign cultures. However, their power reflected on the success of “Winter Sonata” must not be laughed off. Some joke that we should sign a cultural free trade agreement.
In the course of exchange, Japan is likely to re-create and improve Korean products and export them back to us. If we are content that Japan is crazy about Korea, we are marveling only at the surface of the Korean wave. The Korean wave in Japan ignited by “Winter Sonata” is not just a gift. It is also a warning .

by Ahn Sung-kyoo

The writer is a political news deputy editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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