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Saturday, December 25, 2004



Korean Wave in Asia

Now for another edition of our recap of the top ten news stories that made headlines in Korea this year.
This time... we'll look at the rising popularity of Korean pop culture in Asia.
Kang Minji has this report.

For much of the second half of the twentieth century... South Koreans banned Japanese cultural products after being forced to embrace Japanese culture and language during the period of colonisation.
Seoul only began to relax the ban in 19-98... but despite fears by older generations in Korea... this hasn't led to a love of all things Nippon.
Rather, it is Japan which is being swept by the so-called Korean Wave... as Korean entertainers are enjoying unprecedented popularity not only in Japan... but also in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

"Much of the current Korea boom in Japan has been fuelled by a Korean soap-opea called 'Winter Sonata'. Japanese viewers like the drama for different reasons, but I think the main reason for its big success is that it portrays human feelings that tend to be missing in recent Japanese dramas. Due to mounting requests by viewers in Japan... N-H-K has aired 'Winter Sonata' four times so far."

'Winter Sonata''s leading actor, Bae Yong-joon or Yon-sama as he is affectionately known in Japan... is so popular that Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi recently joked... 'Yon-sama is more popular than me' .
Amid the infatuation with Korea... Japanese travel agents are offering 'Winter Sonata' trips to Korea... while many fans are taking Korean language classes.

"Experts attribute the phenomenal success and advance of Korea's mass culture in Asia to a set of unique qualities: its characteristic dynamism, cultural affinity, and niche market positioning. But what are the necessary factors for the Korean Wave to continue, rather than disappear like many fads?"

The fever sweeping Asia for Korean pop culture began in the late 19-90s... when Korean TV dramas were successfully released in China.
But the Korean wave in Chinese-speaking markets has died down a bit... due to a lack of marketing strategies and a systematic approach to the quality of pop export items.

"The recent Korean Wave in Japan so far has shown similar patterns to the one that swept through China years ago. Spurred by the Yon-sama syndrome, Japanese fans express more affection to individual stars, rather than to Korean culture. Now the foremost task for Koreans is to figure out how to go beyond Yon-sama and help the wave carry its momentum to include a bigger cultural scene."

Experts say... the Korean government needs to take up a coordinating role... to assist private entrepreneurs and individual artists attempting to capitalize on the popularity of Korean culture.
What appeals to Asian fans at the moment is Korea's pop culture products... but industry watchers agree that a 'true' Korean Wave will only be established when other aspects of Korean culture are attached to the current trend... in order to garner wider and lasting acceptance throughout Asia.
Kang Minji, Arirang TV.

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