[FORUM]Korean emotions flow freelyThe magic of Marc Chagall’s art has cast a spell on Koreans. The Seoul Museum of Art’s exhibition of the artist’s paintings, titled “The Magician of Color,” drew more than 500,000 people in three months this summer ― a record number of visitors for a single exhibition in Korea. The exhibition is now being held in Busan, hosted by the Hankook Ilbo.
While the Chagall exhibition was going on, there was a joke among Seoul housewives that anyone who didn’t get an invitation to see the exhibition had to re-examine her relationships.
Why such a fervor over this particular artist? The Russian-born Chagall is famous for his romantic yet fantastic paintings in primary colors of red, yellow and green on backgrounds of bold blue hues. The subject matters of his paintings are simple yet endearing: families, lovers flying through the sky surrounded by flowers, animals amidst backgrounds of small villages. Chagall’s paintings probably appealed to the strong emotions of Koreans because of their strong colors and their rustic and cozy atmosphere.
The “Korean wave” represented by actor Bae Yong-joon, better known as “Yonsama” in Japan, is also fueled by the overall emotional personality of Koreans. Middle-aged Japanese housewives’ infatuation with Mr. Bae, dubbed “yonfluenza,” a term combining the actor’s name and “influenza,” made Koreans realize that we have an “emotional competitive edge” that we were not aware of.
The reason Japanese women say they admire Mr. Bae is that he is a romantic male figure with refined manners and a sensitive soul that is not afraid to express his feelings for a woman.
At the same time, many Japanese women say they are attracted to younger Korean men because they are more “masculine” than their Japanese counterparts. In other words, the “yonfluenza” is driven by Japanese women’s desire to be loved by the ideal man.
Unlike our general assumption, Japan is in some ways even more patriarchical than Korea. There is also a stronger tradition of not expressing one’s feelings openly, and most husbands are silent when they come home.
Japanese people are not as direct as Koreans and tend to speak in roundabout ways. Middle-aged Japanese housewives in particular complain about husbands who are always preoccupied with their work and their monotonous lives. (Of course, the same complaints could be made against middle-aged Korean males.)
Japanese women’s dissatisfaction with their real men exploded into adulation for the ideal romantic man played by Mr. Bae in the television soap opera “Winter Sonata.”
French director Eric Vigner, who recently directed the National Theater of Korea’s production of Moliere’s “The Bourgeois Gentleman,” marveled at the Korean actors’ abundant expression of emotions. The success of Korean movies and soap operas depends on how well the director and producers present emotional scenes and expressions.
The Internet in Korea is a “sea of emotions.” From time to time, a single emotional picture or writing becomes a national topic of interest. Comments on other people’s writings or pictures are also of the emotional kind. Cyworld, a site where people can create their own blogs, is all about emotions expressed though these online journals.
Most company advertisements these days go for the emotional appeal. Instead of informing the customer about the product, the advertisements tend to create a certain atmosphere that are intended to provoke emotions.
Product designs have also become more esthetic rather than merely practical. Foreign companies in Korea also seem to have realized the importance of emotionally appealing to Koreans and are launching marketing strategies such as cultural and social welfare events.
There are several live television programs in Korea helping the needy where people can donate 2,000 won ($1.70) by making a phone call. The soft-heartedness of Koreans usually ensures that the total amount of donations in these programs reach 100 million to 200 million in a matter of minutes.
It is most likely that our unique, beautiful landscape of mountains and rivers, our sorrow-filled history and our love of drinking, singing and dancing have influenced us to become so emotional. In more modern times, the Internet has also become a pathway for emotions to be spread and shared.
One might question whether emotions are an asset in influencing the world. However, it is encouraging to see Korea rising as a strong country in the “emotion-based industries” in the 21st century. Entertainment, arts, industrial design, fashion, crafts, interior design, literature and photography are some of the “emotion-based industries” in which we can make our presence felt. Take a minute to listen to our traditional flute. Do you not feel the wave of emotion surging throughout your entire body?
* The writer is a deputy managing editor in charge of digital news of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Il