Over the past two months, with the debuts of groups like NiziU and JO1 there has been a rise in what I would call “popularity scare”. It’s a very real feeling on both sides of the strait with K-pop fans alarmed at the number of non-Koreans in K-pop, and J-pop fans lamenting the supposed lack of popularity it suffers from. the J-pop. in Korea.
This is honestly a topic I really wanted to touch on, but was also completely disgusted with the current coverage including the above. This frustration is due to several fronts.
- Most of the coverage seems to assume that much of the censorship was only on one side, as the Invisible japan or Morning Message from South China article, thus completely missing the main justification for the birth of groups like JO1 and the different seasons of Produce 101 Japan. The way in which the birth of these groups has been covered – both in the Korean press and abroad – has completely erased the impact of Japanese anti-Korean racism on the reception of all-Korean groups in the past, until completely ignoring the extremely controversial decision to wipe all K-pop groups from terrestrial television starting in 2012. It was solely due to a strong marketing campaign. TWICE as a Japanese band they even had Kouhaku, and yet this effort was not even worth mentioning to anyone in Korea or abroad. The equivalent for more Western readers would be to try to explain why Elvis Presley did so without a single mention of anti-black racism in the United States. Such coverage is not just incomplete, it borders on an apology for racism..
- Much of the coverage of Korean reception of Japanese cultural products fuels the stereotype that Korea is fiercely anti-Japan, which is absolutely separate from reality. Considering how the coverage tends to be international and the racist attitude of some famous Korean American personalities online, the stereotype that Korea is incredibly anti-Japanese is very much alive and real. In fact, it tends to color everyone’s opinion. However, that couldn’t be further from the case. While it is true that Koreans are sensitive to any mention of the colonial period, it would be incredibly wrong to say that Japanese entertainment is hated in Korea. Since the start of the year, the film that has grossed the most money per screen and the second-highest gross total in the domestic market in Korea is none other than Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train. While the 1990s were special given the explosion after the fall of the dictatorship and the freedom to listen to things freely, it would be wrong to call J-pop anything other than an established segment of the consumer market. Korean entertainment now, as the rapid expansion of Animate Korea in particular can attest to this.
So yes, this is an incredibly difficult article to write. Between the global erasure of the rise in anti-Korean racism after 2002 in Japan (and the subsequent setback in recent years) and the incredibly strong stereotype of Korea as rejecting anything remotely Japanese, it does not seems to be no desire to understand the current situation.
In fact, while it is true that the domination of X Japan and Namie Amuro were absolutely unique in their popularity during the 1990s, one might be forgiven for thinking that Japanese acts were more popular in Korea lately.
More acts (such as SEKAI NO OWARI and Aqours) have started adding South Korea as a stopover to their tours despite the fact that many Korean fans simply choose to travel to Japan (a round-trip ticket costs on average between $ 150 and $ 200 and is equivalent to an hour of flight between the two capitals).
So why not NiziU, you might ask. Well, most listeners would choose to go straight for something they couldn’t find in Korea – something with a quick three second check with the current. Gaon graphic would be able to confirm.
So, the popularity of Japanese entertainment in Korea? It’s not something I would worry about, probably never. Maybe I’ll start to worry if everyone Animating Korea stores are closing and major artists cease to tour in Korea altogether. Until then, I’ll be enjoying my weeb karaoke with my cousins across the country and discussing the merits of J-pop with Korean friends as usual.