I am not a fan of Korean pop but as someone who writes about the region’s pop culture, I have to check it out every now and then. I may not be updated with every song, singer or drama that comes out in the Kpop market as compared to Mandopop and Jpop, but I roughly have an idea. And I certainly respect other people’s right to choose the kind of pop culture that they like and enjoy.
So I am definitely amused at the anti-Korean Wave sentiment that is rising in Tokyo. In particular, the protests against hanryu at Fuji TV.
The protesters raised two major issues:
- Fuji TV is broadcasting too much Korean dramas and Korean-related shows.
- Korean popstars charge higher fees than when they perform in their home country.
Fuji TV broadcasts Korean dramas from 2- 5pm Mondays-Wednesdays and from 3- 5pm Thursdays-Fridays. Is this too much? That’s a total of 13 hours a week. To put things in perspective, there’s a total of 133 hours of broadcast time per week assuming that the network begins operations at 5am and ends at midnight. Numbers may not be my strongest skills (that’s why I became a journalist) but the bigger picture certainly does not say that Fuji TV has been broadcasting “too much” Korean shows.
Now, on to the second point. One of the examples that the protesters made was that of Korean boyband JYJ’s earnings. They claimed that JYJ pocketed 20 million yen (US$261,000) for a recent show in Japan compared to just 2 million yen ($26,000) for a performance in Korea. Their domestic earnings represent just 10% of overseas fees.
Let’s say they have to spend for logistics like travel and accommodation that would include their crew and staff and these items may already be incorporated in the fees that they charge. Or not. Either way, it’s undeniable that popstars find Japan a very lucrative market. China may have outpaced it as the second biggest economy in the world but it’s still third. And that is the reason why all these Korean popstars are crossing the Sea of Japan because the market back home is not that big and it is so crowded already.
I disagree with the protesters on the first point. Fuji TV has the right to air programs it deem would cater to their market for as long as that does not violate their broadcasting policy. There are lots of Kpop fans in Japan, so why deprive them of that viewing pleasure?
On the other hand, the second point is valid, especially if it will be at the expense of local artists (yes, my Jpop bias is showing here). Perhaps they could regulate the market to allow foreign acts to perform locally but at a standard rate and to protect local artists at the same time. This way, Korean popstars are able to expand their market from their less lucrative domestic one while Japanese artists are not left with crumbs in their own market.
Beyond major valid points, I hope they’re not protesting because of some misplaced nationalism, scared that Korean culture will take over Japan. This is the era of globalization. As Thomas L. Friedman said, the world is flat… and crowded. (With Kpop stars? Sorry, can’t resist it.)
End note: These Tokyo protests are not really different from the noise raised by Chinese netizens every now and then when they are confronted with something Japanese on their screens–be it Zhang Ziyi playing a geisha or Tang Wei’s character having a bed scene with a Japanese spy or Rainie Yang speaking Nihongo. This xenophobia is so outdated in this modern world. Seriously.
End note2: It is also worth noting that South Korea banned the import of Japanese culture after World War II. By “culture” this covered music, film, video games and literature including mangas. The ban was partially lifted in 1998 but it was only in 2004 that it was totally lifted. It’s ironic then that one of the prime markets for Hallyu is Japan. Perhaps we can blame it on Yonsama?