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Under the Wave of Hanryu

In: Film and Music

Submitted By sjz0430
Words 2015
Pages 9
Professor Erin McLaughlin Multimedia Writing and Rhetoric 12 November 2014

Under the Wave Hanryu Lights go on. Music hallows across the concert hall. A group of Korean teenage singers come on stage and start singing and dancing. Audience sing along, in relatively awkward pronunciation. Some cry in joy, some shout their excitement out as if to show their affection. Yes, they are under the wave, “Hanryu.” Hanryu is a term that refers to the significant increase in the popularity of South Korean pop culture. Initiated by the spread of Korean dramas across East, South, and Southeast Asia, Hanryu solidified its impact through the spread of Korean pop music. The “Hanryu” wave has spread throughout Japan, China, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Australia, and to may more regions. “Hanryu” has formed a wave of cultural exchange across the globe, significantly promoting mutual understanding and improving inter-country relationships. “Hanryu” was a sensational trend of 21st century in Asia. Out of all the countries Hanryu was introduced to, Japan exhibited a very special attitude – contempt. The idea of Hanryu even initiated street protests and demonstration involving hundreds of people in Japan. Why? Why was Japan the only country reluctant to accept this new phenomenon? The most compelling reason of this modern case can be found, ironically, in the events that happened almost a century ago: the Japanese Imperial Period.

From 1876 to 2014, Japan and Korea has come all the way from the Japanese Imperial Period to the emergence of “Hanryu.” Some say “Hanryu” has finally enclosed the gap history has created between Korea and Japan. However, I argue otherwise. Japanese Imperial Period: cause and effect Also called Korea under Japanese rule, the Japanese Imperial Period officially marked its beginning with the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1876, with which Japanese officials sought to integrate Korea both politically and economically. Japan exploited this document to forcefully open up Korean ports to Japanese trade and to grant extraterritorial rights to Japanese citizens. Soon, the period of Japanese imperial colonial administration began; Koreans were forced to follow Japanese officials’ commands and hence were significantly influenced by Japanese culture, education, and much more. Koreans were severely mistreated with numerous tortures and unequal rights, but the consequence of any sign of rebellion against Japanese rule was public execution. Korea was officially annexed with Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty of 1910, when Japan was defeated in World War II (Moon). Korea has become an independent nation again, but the impact Japan has brought into the country was irreversible. In fact, it is the main causes of modern controversies between these two countries – a wall that impeded Hanryu from being accepted in Japan just like in other countries. The Japanese imperial period isn’t just a historical event to Koreans; in fact, it is still a sensitive topic that makes Koreans furious. It is not surprising that anti-Japanese sentiment is prevalent across the nation. Koreans who initiated rebellions or who participated are still regraded as national heroes in the country; the fact that these figures were killed by Japanese soldiers back then is a trigger to Koreans’ enragement. For example, the March 1st

Movement of 1991, the most well-known rebellion and which also acted as a catalyst for all other ones, is still “remembered in all Koreans heart” (Soh). 2 million people participated, 46,000 were arrested, 7,500 were killed, and 14,000 were wounded (Soh). Despite the losses, independence movements continued, as well as Japan’s violent repressions. This event is now a “must-know” fact in Korea: it is narrated in every textbook and numerous museums were build just for the memorial of the casualties in this March 1st movement. Another main source of hostility is the existence of comfort women and forced labors during Japanese Imperial Era. Historical documents show 450,000 male laborers were involuntarily sent to Japan to be forced to work under Japanese government. 200,000 comfort women were also forced to serve as Japanese military brothels as a form of sexual slavery (Soh). The descendants of these victims as well as their relatives actively inquest Japan to officially apologize. Even after several apologies, Koreans’ anger is far from fading away. Furthermore, the tortures and mistreatments that Japan has enforced upon Korea are also still reminded

by numerous museums. All of this acted as a chain to deepen the hostility of many Korean civilians towards the Japanese government, and even towards Japan itself. Anti-Korean Sentiment: vice versa As much as anti-Japanese sentiment is prevalent in Korea, same sensation emerged in Japan as well: anti-Korean sentiment. This attitude comes from various sources as well. First of all, there’s a discrepancy in the details of the Japanese Imperial period. Unlike how Korean history states 7,500 were killed and 14,000 were wounded during the March 1st Movement, Japanese government states 553 killed and 1409 wounded (Soh). This inequality makes the tension from Japanese annexation inevitable. Evidence of anti-Korean sentiment can be viewed throughout history. For example, when the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake occurred,

most damage was found in a region with high Korean population. Hence rumors spread throughout Japan that Koreans are “poisoning wells.” This reputation has caused massacre of Koreans in different regions – Japanese soldiers tested ethnic Koreans by making them speak a Japanese phrase, exploiting the fact that Koreans have slightly different pronunciation. The moment Koreans made an error in speaking the given phrase, they were executed (Onishi). Likewise, Zainichi Koreans, throughout history, in Japan publicly had an image of trouble-makers. Koreans who have a permanent resident in Japan are called “Zainichi Koreans” (Lie). What kind of discriminations do Zainichi Koreans receive in Japan? First of all, Education: ethnic schools that Koreans attend does not get official accredited by the Japanese education ministry; therefore, students of these high schools are not capable of even taking Japanese college entrance examinations. Even after they graduate college, Zainichi Koreans are often rejected in a company due to his or her race. Furthermore, even though Zainichi Koreans pay the equal amount of tax that the Japanese people do, they do not have noting rights, nor social welfare and recruitment for public posts. Anti-Korea sentiment can be viewed in modern events as well. During the 2002 FIFA World Cup, when Japan and Korea co-hosted, each country’s supporters had serious conflicts. Especially after Koreans ranked higher than Japan, Japanese media reported Korea negatively and online bulletins were on fire (Maliangkay). The nation was furious. On December 2009, about a dozen Japanese men gathered in front of a school gate, using bullhorns to call Korean students cockroaches and Korean spies. They even wore a armband with the phrase, “The Volunteer Corps Against Lawless Koreans” (Fackler). This incident seems to suggest there is still hatred against ethnic Koreans, even if target of their protests were elementary school kids. Just like what this even portrays, Koreans living in

Japan, in the media, articles, or in Japan in general, are viewed as the inferior group of people, hence, are treated unequally and discriminated accordingly. In 2001, there was a poll held for ethnic Koreans living in Japan. According to the survey, only 13.5% of South Korean citizens uses their Korean names, whereas 50% uses Japanese names (Lie). This is not because these Zainichi Koreans are embarrassed of their origin, but it’s the Japanese society’s unpleasant reaction towards the fact that they are from Korea. Hanryu Steps In: Start of something new, or was it? Finally, Hanryu steps in. As Hanryu was introduced and the Korean Wave shifted across East Asia, its growth of popularity was inexpressible in words. South Korean popculture was creating a new unity in various nations. Media reports Hanryu has reconciled the ever-lasting hostility between Japan and Korea. However, at the same time, created a antiHanryu wave among certain groups of Japanese society. On August 9th, 2011, 2000 Japanese people protested in front of Fuji TV headquarters to stop broadcasting Korean dramas. 2000 is a number not to be taken lightly, considering these are the people who’s negative attitudes are extreme. Japanese media, as if to reflect the audience’s feelings, constantly depicted Koreans negatively. These include reference to stereotypes of Koreans, such as use of dongs in Korean cuisine (Hwang). These unfavorable illustrations strengthen Japanese hatred against Koreans and hence intensifies the negative depiction, causing an endless cycle. Statistics show that this endless cycle of explicit negative portrayal of Koreans and rising hatred emerged only after “Hanryu” came in (Maliangkay). As Korean idol groups created a “Korean Wave,” and more and more people in Japan started to appreciate Korean celebrities coming into their country, it seemed as if racial

discriminations are disappearing slowly. It was impossible to imagine that these celebrities were, in fact, enhancing racial discrimination. The comic book called, “Hating the Korean Wave” sold 360,000 copies just in 2005 (Onishi). The book not only humiliates Korean celebrities, but also contains picture that sexually harasses female idol groups from Korea. It is also important to note that in this book, Japanese people are portrayed with big eyes and blond hair, while Koreans are drawn with small eyes and black hair. This suggests that Japanese people considers Western people and their characteristics as superior, leading them to have discriminative feelings on other Asian countries, especially Koreans. Some professionals state, the reason of anti-Hanryu comes from “jealousy” or the tendency for Japanese people to view Koreans as the “inferior group of people” due to the history of colonization. Perhaps Hanryu was introduced at the wrong timing. Perhaps Japan wasn’t ready to accept anything from Korea. No matter what the reason, Hanryu was not able to overcome the huge wall named “history.” Hanryu, in fact, strengthened the wall. Now What? In the 21st century, Korea and Japan developed into a first-world nation where people from different parts of Asia seek for better economic opportunities. In other words, Japan and Korea have grown into two of the most significant nations in the world. Such developed and globalized nations should now face a transition into a higher level of racial and cultural tolerance. The fact that contemporary attitude of Korea and Japan towards each other comes from history does not reflect that these two countries are two of the most developed nations around the world. There is a need for the international community to encourage the Japanese government to decrease bias in Japanese media against Korea and its history of colonization,

rather than a factor that brings thought of superiority. Korea, as well, should begin considering the Imperial Era only as a part of history, something that should not provoke hostility against Japan. Indeed, it is impossible for the animosity rising from history to be completely cleaned out from both countries. After all, history cannot be modified nor be destroyed. However, it is possible for us to take an effort to minimize the discriminations and the animosity that comes from this. In 1980s to 1990s, Japanese government took an effort to reduce the discrimination and started to hire Koreans in corporations and changed the policy of permanent residency status of Koreans in Japan. (Moon) With continuous effort, our generation would not be far from a genuine new start.

Works Cited

Fackler, Martin. "New Dissent in Japan Is Loudly Anti-Foreign." The New York Times (2010). Web. 3 Nov. 2014. Hwang, Eugene. "Anti-Korean Wave divides opinion in Japan." Yonhap Feature 4 Nov. 2011 [Seoul] . NDCatalog. Web. 2 Nov. 2014. Lie, John. Zainichi (Koreans in Japan): Diasproic Nationalism and Postcolonial Identity. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2008. N. pag. Print. Maliangkay, Roald. "When the Korean Wave Ripples." IIAS Newsletter 42 (2006): 15+. Web. 2 Nov. 2014. Moon, Rennie. "Koreans in Japan." SPICE: Stanford Program on International and CrossCultural Education. Stanford, 2010. Web. 1 Nov. 2014. Onishi, Norimitsu. "Ugly Images of Asian Rivals Become Best Sellers in Japan." The New York Times (2005). Web. 1 Nov. 2014. Soh, Sarah. "Japan's Responsibility Toward Comfort Women Survivors." JPRI: Japan Policy Research Institute 77 (2001). NDCatalog. Web. 3 Nov. 2014.…...

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