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"China's youth look to Seoul for inspiration"

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bhchao

Came across this article today on the popularity of South Korean culture among Chinese youth.

I think there is a whole range of factors that helps explain this phenomenon.

1) Political factors is one of them. Freedom of thought, creativity, and ideas flow easily in a country with a government that facilitates them. Chinese youth may find Korean pop culture as a refreshing alternative that compensates for the void caused by the political situation at home.

2) Korean pop culture is more acceptable than accepting the pop cultures of other countries, for example Japan. Even though Korean pop culture is influenced to some degree by American pop culture, widespread acceptance of the former is more tolerable than widespread acceptance of the latter because Koreans have a historically close cultural connection with the Chinese.

Also whenever you watch Korean television series, it is not uncommon to see young men and women bow to their elders or people of authority. Confucian-influenced behavior can be found in many Korean television shows, and it is this aspect that helps make the hallyu wave appealing to many Asians. Decency is an important factor.

3) China is now South Korea's largest trading partner. Economics and a growing assertiveness in South Korea's stance towards the US is pulling South Korea and China into a closer relationship. South Korea has a trade surplus with China, while the US has a trade deficit with China (approaching $200 billion)

Any thoughts?

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/02/international/asia/02korea.html

At Korea City, on the top floor of the Xidan Shopping Center, a warren of tiny shops sell hip-hop clothes, movies, music, cosmetics and other offerings in the South Korean style.

To young Chinese shoppers, it seemed not to matter that some of the products, like New York Yankees caps or Japan's Astro Boy dolls, clearly have little to do with South Korea. Or that most items originated, in fact, in Chinese factories.

"We know that the products at Korea City are made in China," said Wang Ying, 28, who works for the local branch of an American company. "But to many young people, 'Korea' stands for fashionable or stylish. So they copy the Korean style."

From clothes to hairstyle, music to television dramas, South Korea has been defining the tastes of many Chinese and other Asians for the past half decade. As part of what the Chinese call the Korean Wave of pop culture, a television drama about a royal cook, "The Jewel in the Palace," is garnering record ratings throughout Asia, and Rain, a 23-year-old singer from Seoul, drew more than 40,000 fans to a sold-out concert at a sports stadium here in October.

But South Korea's "soft power" also extends to the material and spiritual spheres. Samsung's cellphones and televisions are symbols of a coveted consumerism for many Chinese. Christianity, in the evangelical form championed by Korean missionaries deployed throughout China, is finding Chinese converts despite Beijing's efforts to rein in the spread of the religion. South Korea acts as a filter for Western values, experts say, making them more palatable to Chinese and other Asians.

For a country that has been influenced by other cultures, especially China but also Japan and America, South Korea finds itself at a turning point in its new role as exporter.

The transformation began with South Korea's democratization in the late 1980's, which unleashed sweeping domestic changes. As its democracy and economy have matured, its influence on the rest of Asia, negligible until a decade ago, has grown accordingly. Its cultural exports have even caused complaints about cultural invasion in China and Vietnam.

Historically, Christianity made little headway in East Asia, except in South Korea, whose population is now about 30 percent Christian and whose overseas missionary movement is the world's second largest after the United States.

Today, in China, South Korean missionaries are bringing Christianity with an Asian face. South Korean movies and dramas about urban professionals in Seoul, though not overtly political, present images of modern lives centering on individual happiness and sophisticated consumerism.

They also show enduring Confucian-rooted values in their emphasis on family relations, offering to Chinese both a reminder of what was lost during the Cultural Revolution and an example of an Asian country that has modernized and retained its traditions.

"Three Guys and Three Girls" and "Three Friends" are South Korea's homegrown version of the American TV show "Friends." As for "Sex and the City," its South Korean twin, "The Marrying Type," a sitcom about three single professional women in their 30's looking for love in Seoul, was so popular in China that episodes were illegally downloaded or sold on pirated DVD's.

"We feel that we can see a modern lifestyle in those shows," said Qu Yuan, 23, a student at Tsinghua University here. "American dramas also show the same kind of lifestyle. We know that South Korea and America have similar political systems and economies. But it's easier to accept that lifestyle from South Koreans because they are culturally closer to us. We feel we can live like them in a few years."

"They seem to have similar lifestyles," Ms. Qu said. "They have friends and go to bars. They have good mobile phones and good cars and lead comfortable lives."

Her classmate, Huo Kan, 23, said, "American dramas are too modern."

Ms. Qu said, "They're postmodern."

Ms. Huo added, "Something like 'Sex and the City' is too alien to us."

Jin Yaxi, 25, a graduate student at Beijing University, said, "We like American culture, but we can't accept it directly."

"And there is no obstacle to our accepting South Korean culture, unlike Japanese culture," said Ms. Jin, who has studied both Korean and Japanese. "Because of the history between China and Japan, if a young person here likes Japanese culture, the parents will get angry."

Politics also seems to underlie the Chinese preference for South Korean-filtered American hip-hop culture. Messages about rebelliousness, teenage angst and freedom appear more palatable to Chinese in their Koreanized versions.

Kwon Ki Joon, 22, a South Korean who attends Beijing University and graduated from a Chinese high school here, said his male Chinese friends were fans of South Korea hip-hop bands, like H.O.T., and its song "We Are the Future."

To Mr. Kwon, there is no mystery about the band's appeal. "It's about wanting a more open world, about rebelliousness," he said. "Korean hip-hop is basically trying to adapt American hip-hop."

Like many South Koreans, Oh Dong Suk, 40, an investor in online games here, said he believed that South Korea's pop culture was a fruit of the country's democratization. "If you watch South Korean movies from the 1970's or 1980's, you could feel that it was a controlled society," Mr. Oh said.

Hwang In Choul, 35, a South Korean missionary here, also sees a direct link between South Korea's democratization and its influence in China. After restrictions on travel outside South Korea were lifted in the late 1980's, South Korea's missionary movement grew from several hundred to its current size of 14,000 missionaries.

Mr. Hwang, who since 2000 has trained 50 Chinese pastors to proselytize, is among the 1,500 South Korean missionaries evangelizing in China, usually secretly.

The Korean Wave has been gathering for some time, with its roots traceable to several developments, including the Seoul Olympics in 1988. The first civilian president was elected in 1992, ending nearly 32 years of military rule and ushering in tumultuous change.

A newly confident South Korea has pursued an increasingly independent foreign policy, often to Washington's displeasure, warming up to China and to North Korea. Social changes that took decades elsewhere were compressed into a few years, as new freedoms yielded a rich civil society, but also caused strains between generations and the sexes, leading to one of the world's highest divorce rates and lowest birth rates.

As South Korea quickly became the world's most wired nation, new online news sites challenged the conservative mainstream media's monopoly; press clubs, a Japanese colonial legacy that controlled the flow of news, were weakened or eliminated. Unlike other Asian nations, South Korea has tackled head-on taboo subjects in its society, including the legacy of military rule and collaboration during Japanese colonial rule.

Here, at a computer center on a recent evening, young Chinese could be seen playing South Korean online games. Cyworld, the largest online community service in South Korea, is announcing its arrival in China by plastering ads on city buses.

Thanks to the Korean Wave and South Korea's new image, being Korean helps business.

Another company that has benefited from the Korean Wave's "positive effect" is Hyundai, said Um Kwang Heum, president of its Chinese division. Though a latecomer to China, Hyundai signed a joint venture agreement with Beijing Automotive Industry Holdings in 2002 and has already become No. 2 in sales among automakers in China.

Thanks to its local partner, Hyundai's cars have been chosen by the Beijing government to replace the city's aging taxis before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Hyundai Elantras will make up most of the city's taxi fleet in time for the Olympics, which are expected to be a turning point for China, just as they signaled South Korea's entry onto the world stage in 1988 and postwar Japan's in 1964.

For all of South Korea's influence in China, though, few Chinese expect the Olympics and democratization to dovetail as they did in Seoul...

"The government," he added, "is definitely a little nervous about the popularity of the Korean Wave."

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wushijiao

This is a really good article. I especially like , "South Korea acts as a filter for Western values, experts say, making them more palatable to Chinese and other Asians."

I agree with bhchao's reasons as to why South Korean pop culture is popular. Another factor that might account for the Korean wave is the similarity of major urban Korea to urban China. I've never been there, but densely populated Seoul seems to look a lot like Shanghai, especially when compared to American suburbia, in which many Hollywood TV shows and movies take place.

Personally, I've shown at least 40 movies to Chinese students over the years, and, to some degree, I have a sense for what will be popular with the majority of students. The main thing to keep in mind is that any dialogue based movie or TV show, in English at least, is bound to fail. Most non-blockbuster-type movies aren't popular because the dialogue and humor is lost in translation or is too culturally bound. Instead, the plot has to constantly move, move, move! Any segment of more than 30 seconds that is not adding to an entertaining plot is guaranteed to bore students. Personally, I think Sex and the City, for example, is really well written and witty. But if one can't follow the conversation, you're left with just raw shagging, which is unacceptable to many Chinese people.

Anyway, the only problem I have with the NYTimes article is it seems to project a political demension to the Korean wave that I just don't see. The Chinese acceptance of the Korean Wave is the epitome of apolitical phenomena, in my opinion (even if it were only possible under a democratic social system that encouraged creativity).

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geraldc
Thanks to its local partner, Hyundai's cars have been chosen by the Beijing government to replace the city's aging taxis before the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

What no more Volkswagen taxis!!!:shock:

Korea's in the right place at the right time. It's not Japan and it's not Taiwan, and right now it's producing great TV serials and great movies.

Korea's chaebols are now getting into branding, something that Taiwanese companies have failed to do. Samsung products are no longer cheap clones, lots of its products are now cutting edge etc.

Still don't think much of Korean cars though...

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bhchao
Anyway, the only problem I have with the NYTimes article is it seems to project a political demension to the Korean wave that I just don't see. The Chinese acceptance of the Korean Wave is the epitome of apolitical phenomena, in my opinion (even if it were only possible under a democratic social system that encouraged creativity).

Check out today's article in the Taipei Times. I think you raised a good point there. Even Taiwan, which has a democratic political system, has widely accepted the Korean Wave.

What is outright absurd is that the DPP wants to ban soap operas from Hong Kong, mainland China, Korea, and Japan from Taiwan TV. Pretty xenophobic. DPP is acting like CCP during the 1960's.

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2006/01/11/2003288408

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skylee

Yes that is absurd.

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wushijiao

On the one hand, I understand how a small island nation/province would want to protect itself from a onslaught from surrounding powerhouses with burgeoning entertainment sectors. I think small countries or regions have to make difficult choices in trying to globalize successfully and protect and develop their local culture. But on the other hand, I hate censorship. I think it could be dangerous for a fledgling democracy to give too much power to a censor board.

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gato

My memory of Taiwanese soap operas from the 1980s is that the characters are always screaming at each other. My mom used to watch them. I couldn't stand them. The directors apparently measured the quality of the drama in decibels. It's not really at all true to life, either, based on my experiences with the Taiwanese. If anything, the Taiwanese tend to be quieter and more courteous than those in the mainland. I wonder if these soaps have changed at all.

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Outofin
My memory of Taiwanese soap operas from the 1980s is that the characters are always screaming at each other.

:lol: That's an accurate picture. Not always, but constantly.

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bhchao

In a recent poll, younger generation of South Koreans want closer relationship with China rather than the U.S.

http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/nation/200602/kt2006022117341211950.htm

"Young people in South Korea want the government to have closer relations with China rather than with the United States, North Korea and other countries in Europe, according to the latest opinion poll of 1,000 juniors aged from 18 to 23.

When asked which country South Korea should keep the closest relations with, nearly 40 percent of the respondents chose China. Their second and third choices were the United States (18.4 percent) and North Korea (18 percent).

Most of South Korea's political experts contacted by The Korea Times expressed their surprise since it could mean that the future generation of the country considers China as a more important partner than its traditional ally, the United States...

Those who chose the United States as their most favored state came from supporters of the nation's conservative opposition Grand National Party (28.5 percent). North Korea was selected by high school students (23.1 percent) and residents in the Cholla provinces (21.6 percent). "

kt22006022122401801.jpg

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bhchao

Here is a very interesting article about hallyu from the Korea Times. It talks about the importance of cultural synergy between China, Korea, and Japan, and how hallyu can help make that happen without creating a perception that Korea is monopolizing cultural exports to the rest of Asia.

I think hallyu can produce a positive change in China's own entertainment industry. Korean producers can make that happen by hiring Chinese staff members during the production of K-drama, and teaching them how to be creative and innovative in the production process.

This would help create a mutually beneficial cultural exchange between the two countries.

http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/culture/200602/kt2006022620180311690.htm

"...Koreans, traditionally under the heavy cultural influence of China and, relatively recently, Japan and the United States, seems to feel both wonder and jitters, just like a lifetime supporting actor who for the first time takes up an unfamiliar lead role...

According to Lee, Korea’s ``hybridized’’ cultural peculiarity has appealed to Asians. ``Korea has deftly filtered Western cultural factors to fit the Asian sentiment as well as adapted the Eastern culture to something Western and contemporary. Thereby, Korean culture could be viewed as keeping an exquisite balance between the traditional and contemporary, and the East and West.’’

However, he suggests Korean pop culture seek coexistence with other Asian cultures. ``If the Korean wave distorts or encroaches on the vitality of other Asian cultures, it would be nothing short of an East Asian version of cultural imperialism.’’ Then, the cultural phenomena would be a mechanism that would hinder peace and coexistence in the region, he stressed.

Lee suggests Koreans should not brag of their cultural rise but approach the trend from more a comprehensive perspective for the region’s future. In that context, he contends Koreans understand what has driven Asian nations to actively import Korea’s cultural products. For example, the Chinese culture professor points out that the popularity of Korean culture rose in the mainland, particularly since the late 1990s, when the Chinese began to turn to their traditions as a reaction to a wave of capitalization. In other words, Korean dramas and movies that maintain Asian values such as Confucianism could appeal to the Chinese who then swung back to their traditions from their liberal experiments. According to him, the Chinese stomach Korean culture in their own context just as they did Japanese culture before the late 1990s.

The professor also notes the Korean wave could be viewed as a cornerstone in the buildup to the region’s cultural community. ``I would dare to predict that the East Asians will fast form the East Asian cultural community with Korean, Japanese and Chinese waves competing and mixing,’’ he said. ``The Korean wave has contributed much to the process as it becomes already irreversible for the Asian cultures to take after or refer to each other.’’

Kazuo Ogura, Japanese scholar on Korean philosophy, also views hallyu in the context of inter-strait relations, stressing the Korean wave reflects Japan’s frustration. According to him, there has been a so-called ``Look to Korea’’ syndrome in Japan since the 1990s, people keep saying we are ``learning from Korea’’ on restructuring, political reform, civic groups, patriotism, Confucian family values, globalization and so on.

``In a word, the right, the left, and the new liberals are all shouting that Japan needs to learn from Korea,’’ he said. The scholar analyzed the trend as ``postmodern’’ Japan’s envious attitude to ``pre-modern’’ or ``modern’’ Korea. ``The Japanese feel attracted by Korean actors, because they are modern actors. Japan’s postmodern actors are neither rational nor have a responsibility to shoulder. In other words, they (Japanese) have degenerated,’’ he said.

According to the scholar, the Korean wave is not just a fashion but mirrors Japan’s reflection on itself, as if to say ``Japan has no hope now. We need to learn from Korea.’’

He interestingly points out the Korean wave is the third of its kind from the peninsula to the archipelago, with the first being the transfer of Chinese characters, Confucianism and other civilizations in ancient times and the second being the spread of Chu Hsi’s teaching in the 16th century. By saying that, the Japanese scholar seems to believe the third Korean wave could be a wind of change to a stagnant Japanese culture.

In other respects, he also asks Koreans to learn from Japan in its modernization. ``Korea’s modernization has yet to be completed. It is evident that Japan gives many hints to Korea in its modernization.’’

Natsuo Hayashi (The spelling has yet to be confirmed), international relations professor of Toyama University, also points to the possible synergetic effect between the two cultures. Taking the example of the Korean film ``Old Boy’’ that gets motifs from a Japanese namesake comic, the two cultures had better be viewed not as confrontational but cooperative, Natsuo said. "

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skylee
Korean producers can make that happen by hiring Chinese staff members during the production of K-drama, and teaching them how to be creative and innovative in the production process.

teach???

Actually I think there are more Koreans taking part in chinese/japanese production than the other way around. I think the language is one of the barriers.

I've heard that there were some protests in Korea about movie quota. Not sure what that was about. Are the movie workers fighting for more quota allocated to local films? Why is there a need for a quota system? I think in a free market, cinemas will show good films to attract viewers so if the films are good they will be shown. Or am I very wrong?

And what is "hallyu"?

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bhchao

skylee,

There is a lack of a strong innovation or creativity culture in China, even though Beijing is making efforts in that direction. Otherwise how else are you going to be innovative and creative if you decide not to learn from other cultures? Learning and experimenting with how other cultures were able to be successful is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a matter of swallowing your pride, and gives you the opportunity to expand on what you have learned from other cultures.

This "pride" mentality contributed to China's downfall during late Qing. If Japan was able to do it by studying Western techniques, and Korea was able to modernize its economy by studying the Japanese postwar economic miracle, I see no reason why China can't do the same with regards to improving its innovation or creativity culture.

Actually I think there are more Koreans taking part in chinese/japanese production than the other way around.

Evidence please.

I've heard that there were some protests in Korea about movie quota. Not sure what that was about. Are the movie workers fighting for more quota allocated to local films? Why is there a need for a quota system? In a free market, cinemas will show good films to attract viewers so if the films are good they will be shown. Or am I very wrong?

The Korean government recently made a decision to reduce the quota by half. Actually other countries have adopted similar protectionist measures to safeguard its domestic film industry, like France and Italy. And Taiwan wants to reduce the number of airtime devoted to foreign television dramas in a bid to protect its own industry.

I agree that the film industry should be dictated by the free market, rather than by protectionist measures adopted by the government. I highly disagree with the quota system. If the government tries to censor films or reduce airtime for foreign dramas, it will only increase people's appetite for them since they can easily get it on pirated DVDs

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atitarev

Film quota makes sense, IMHO. If all countries start broadcasting only Hollywood movies, local film production will just die. Young people should be able to view local movie and learn about local cultures and see different views. It's my general comment about foreign movies in general, whatever country we are talking about and whatever more influential film producer there is at the moment. The quota should be big enough to show enogh foreign movies, I would also split the quota into multiple cultures, otherwise 100% of foreign movies will come just from Hollywood.

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skylee

bhchao, I think what bothers me is the word "teach". IMHO, there is a difference between one seeking knowledge to improve oneself and one trying to teach another person to improve that person. What I am thinking is "人之患,好爲人師".

As to your demand for evidence, well I don't spend my time doing studies on this so no there is no evidence. But from what I recall, there were these koreans actors taking part in Chinese/Japanese production -

宋承憲 in So Close (featuring Shu Qi)

金素妍 in 七劍

池珍熙 in 如果愛

張東健 in 無極

崔智友 in the remake of 一千零一次求婚

蔡琳 in some Chinese TV dramas whose names I don't know

崔智友 in the Japanese TV drama 輪舞曲

全智賢, 鄭雨盛 and 李政宰 in 雛菊 (Daisy) (I am not sure if this is a korean production but the director is 劉偉強 from HK)

On the other hand, I can only recall these chinese actors taking part in korean production -

張柏芝 in 白蘭

章子怡 in 武士

Of course I only see what is on-screen and have no idea what happened at the back stage.

There is not a quota system in HK so I am not familiar with it. If it is implemented in many countries, maybe they just see the need for it.

As to hallyu, google has told me that it means 韓流. :)

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bhchao
I think what bothers me is the word "teach". IMHO, there is a difference between one seeking knowledge to improve oneself and one trying to teach another person to improve that person. What I am thinking is "人之患,好爲人師".

Ok perhaps I used the wrong word. :) I didn't intend it to be condescending. What I actually meant was Korean producers hiring Chinese staff and seeking their creative input in producing K-drama. That way Chinese production staff members who take part in producing K-drama can use that experience to make the Chinese film and television industry even better. Koreans can also let Chinese know how K-drama or hallyu were able to be successful in the first place. For example, the Ministry of Culture in South Korea actively supports and encourages the film and arts industry in Korea, unlike the current Bush government in the U.S. And this film and television industry in South Korea can thrive free from any government censorship.

As a result, entertainment industry entrepreneurs do not have to worry about having their creative ideas panned or scrutinized at the slightest whim by the government. This helps create an environment that facilitates the easy flow of ideas and creativity.

But from what I recall, there were these koreans actors taking part in Chinese/Japanese production -

宋承憲 in So Close (featuring Shu Qi)

金素妍 in 七劍

池珍熙 in 如果愛

張東健 in 無極

崔智友 in the remake of 一千零一次求婚

蔡琳 in some Chinese TV dramas whose names I don't know

崔智友 in the Japanese TV drama 輪舞曲

全智賢, 鄭雨盛 and 李政宰 in 雛菊 (Daisy) (I am not sure if this is a korean production but the director is 劉偉強 from HK)

Well that is a good sign then. 8) This shows East Asian cross-cultural collaboration regardless of the country of production. BTW, Lee Young-ae is going to star in a Hong Kong television production (maybe with Andy Lau) about a Korean painter who flees to Hong Kong during WWII.

These cultural exchanges between Hong Kong and South Korea have also helped fuel HKers' interest in Korean cuisine.

A two-way process makes both sides happy.

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