Japanese Culture, Not Hollywood, May Swamp Korean Society to Improve Relations, S. Korea Ends Its Ban on Japan's Cultural Exports on Oct. 20

By Michael Baker, Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, November 5, 1998 | Go to article overview

Japanese Culture, Not Hollywood, May Swamp Korean Society to Improve Relations, S. Korea Ends Its Ban on Japan's Cultural Exports on Oct. 20


Michael Baker, Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Ask Koreans about Japan and you could get an earful about evil colonial rule. You might also hear about Japan's great comic books.

Hatred for Japan's domination of Korea during most of the first half of the 20th century runs deep - but so does an appetite for Japanese culture. From translations of comics to Korean remakes of love stories, it's ubiquitous.

To help bring together these "close yet distant" neighbors, President Kim Dae Jung is lifting a 53-year ban on Japanese culture. Although the two countries are each other's second largest trading partners after the US, lifting the ban is no simple matter. During colonial rule from 1910 to 1945, Koreans were forced to give up Korean names and learn Japanese. Many of that generation would prefer to keep the culture ban. The entertainment industry is wary of the competition - Japan's products are already imitated by South Korea. Parents complain that Japan's pop music, full of sex and violence, will corrupt the young. So far, only award-winning movies and some comics have been allowed since President Kim's Oct. 20 announcement. The government will gradually allow the rest - live performances, music, animation, video games, and TV - by 2002, when South Korea and Japan co-host soccer's World Cup. Japan could eventually claim 7 to 35 percent of various entertainment markets, sapping up to $20 million from the domestic industry, according to the Samsung Economic Research Institute (SERI). But lifting the ban might also stimulate Japanese interest in Korean culture, although it is not banned there. As Japan's potential market is 10 times Korea's, "most Korean companies think it's a kind of opportunity," says Kim Hyu Jong at SERI. The government is standing by with an extra $154 million for the arts and culture promotion fund. Lee Kwang Mo, a movie director, doesn't expect too big an impact.

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