「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら
「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら


Where is Hallyu?

By Patrick St. Michel


Last week, thousands upon thousands of people swarmed the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba for KCON Japan 2016. The two-day event celebrated "All Things Hallyu," referring to the growing popularity of South Korean culture all over the world. Besides featuring performances from big-name K-pop artists, KCON also included dozens of booths devoted to everything from Korean cosmetics to tourism.

It was an incredibly popular event, drawing fans of all ages, but you also wouldn't be blamed for having no knowledge it was happening. Despite attracting global buzz, Korean pop culture remains a niche interest in Japan, albeit as big as a niche can get. There's a big fan base for all things Hallyu in Japan, but Japanese TV shows and publications rarely feature them.

This wasn't always the case. The first summer I lived in Japan, I couldn't go anywhere without hearing a K-pop song from girl groups such as Girls' Generation or KARA. Every time I turned on the television, a show was talking about the boom in Korean pop culture, which also included Korean TV series. Korean artists such as BoA and Tohoshinki had crossed over to Japan before, but this felt very different. Whereas those artists released new songs in Japanese, this new wave of artists were capturing attention with singles sounding vastly different than J-pop and often in Korean.

Not everyone welcomed Hallyu with open arms. Actor Sousuke Takaoka tweeted in 2011 that Fuji TV showed so many Korean TV series that he felt "brainwashed." TV staple Matsuko Deluxe similarly slammed K-pop on a variety show, while various groups held protests outside TV stations airing Korean shows. Despite that, K-pop groups such as Big Bang and 2NE1 sold out baseball stadiums and appeared frequently on Japanese music shows. I remember many of my junior high school students at the time were obsessed with the groups, decorating their pencil cases with Hallyu-friendly stickers.

I don't think Japanese fans of K-pop or K-dramas went away, but the coverage of it changed. The 2012 edition of NHK's annual Kohaku Uta Gassen featured zero K-pop performers — despite Korean acts recording massive sales and three groups having appeared on the show the year before. Some cited increased political tensions between the two nations, but soon after K-pop vanished from nearly every channel. Last year, NHK announced it would no longer air any Korean TV series on its free-to-air channel, another blow to Hallyu in Japan.

Despite a shift away from acknowledging its existence, K-pop remains popular with many in Japan. Groups such as AOA and Block B do well on music charts, as does girl group Twice, which features three Japanese members. That trio of groups all appeared at KCON, the ultimate reminder that even if the Japanese media edges away from Hallyu for political reasons, a love of Korea's pop culture continues to bring thousands of Japanese together.



The Japan Times ST: April 15, 2016

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート




2018年6月29日号    試読・購読   デジタル版