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[Opinion] The Japanese Wave
MARCH 27, 2007 07:29  
The 밓apanese wave is growing in Korea. Young Koreans have been increasingly reading Japanese novels since a few years ago, and sales of Japanese novels actually exceeded those of their Korean counterparts last year. Staring with the Japanese novel frenzy, Japanese pop culture is making inroads into the Korean cultural content market as well. For instance, the recent hit movie 200-pound Beauty and the TV drama 밫he Great White Tower are both based on original Japanese versions.

Producers at Korean broadcasting companies in the 1980s used to run to Busan or Japan wherever they need to revise their programming because they could watch Japanese TV shows in Busan which is close to Japan. They stayed in their hotel rooms for days, squeezing ideas, watching Japanese TV shows. Indeed, the Japanese wave existed back then, but the 밙orean wave has overwhelmed the Japanese wave since 2000.

Now, Koreans producers are flying for Japan again to obtain ideas for their shows and gain access to originals. Looking back, the Korean drama 밯hat Is Love? (1992) was successful in China because it showed Korean families patriarchal side, which disappeared in China. Another TV drama, 밯inter Sonata (2002) touched the Japanese with a story of devoted love. And there has been no next big hit drama. The strength of Japanese novels is diversity and imagination. There is a wide range of writers, from pure literature writers to popular novelists. It is no surprise that Korean producers lacking ideas are eyeing them.

Pop culture thrives on a rich literature. The movie 밐arry Potter exists because there was the novel 밐arry Potter. Korean literature has been obsessed with heavy political and social issues, including ideology, national division and suffering in these turbulent times. While writers had such a narrow perspective, concerns of readers have shifted toward 밼un reading and 밿ndividual life. As a result, Korean literature gave way to Japanese literature. The playwright Eugene Ionesco once said, 밒deology is the enemy of artists which reduces their imagination. It seems that his words have materialized here in Korea. It is time to revitalize Korean literature, although it is unclear if the revitalization will be possible in a short period of time.

Hong Chan-sik, Editorial Writer, chansik@donga.com

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