The author is a Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
One of the joys of spending the New Year in Japan is watching special television dramas. What I anticipate most is “Kodoku no Gourmet,” which has many fans in Korea too. In the special episode that aired on Jan. 1, protagonist Goro went to Busan for a business trip. After traveling all over Japan, he leaves for Korea.
The salesman has been to Korea before, but I was pleased that he was going to Busan. He takes a ferry from Fukuoka and arrives in Busan in two hours. He says, “Udon is called ‘Udong’ in Korea!” and “I cannot taste this in Japan!” as he enjoys his tour to Busan. The character eats an “octopus-intestine-shrimp stew” in the show.
“To Heal Wounds of Heart,” a special drama on NHK, also caught my eye. The protagonist is late Ahn Guk-chang, a Korean Japanese doctor also known as Katsumasa Ahn. On the 25th anniversary of the Hanshin earthquake, the life of the doctor who cared for the victims of the earthquake was highlighted. He is widely respected by Japanese people. He had a significant role in highlighting the need for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment in the 2000s, when people were not familiar with the response of humans to disasters, life in shelters and temporary housing, and when psychological care for rescue workers was not appreciated.
Korean movie “Parasite” was released late in Japan, and it is growing popular. Director Bong Joon-ho and actor Song Kang-ho already have many fans, but its Oscar nomination is drawing attention of people not otherwise interested in Korean cinema. A cafe added “instant noodles with Korean beef” on the menu, which was featured in the film. The owner of the cafe is a big fan of director Bong and considered a special menu item for him even before the movie was released in Japan. While the cultural connotation of combing Korean beef and instant noodles my not be appreciated, the dish is so popular you have to line up for it.
Since July 2019, Korea-Japan relations have worsened. The discord that started in politics and diplomacy has expanded to economy and culture. A local government head suspended youth exchange, and a college professor declined to attend an academic exchange to proudly join the “anti-Japanese” ranks.
However, while the Korea-Japan relations are aggravated, people did not stop exchanges. Regardless of politics and diplomacy, they continue to have curiosity about the other country. The power of culture cannot be blocked forcibly. A source in broadcasting told me that the popularity of Korean content is unchanged. “Politics and diplomacy should leave us alone,” he said.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 28, Page 28