A Look into the Socio-Cultural aspects of Japanese & Korean Culture through the Lens of Drama

Popular culture has become such an integral part of life that people’s consumption habits, beliefs and behavior are greatly influenced and shaped by the availability of popular culture products and other leisure and entertainment commodities or facilities. Inversely, the society also shapes what is presented in aspects of popular culture such as drama serials, which depict and reflect life in Korean and Japanese societies, forming the focus of our essay.

In this essay, firstly, we will compare briefly the stylistic differences of the Japanese and Korean dramas, inclusive of the length of the dramas. Thereafter, we will present our observations and explain what is shown in Japanese and Korean television serial dramas and what it implies or reflects on the respective societies. Apart from that, we will be doing a cross-cultural analysis along the way, and compare these two societies from what we can gather from watching these television dramas. Finally, we will proceed to explain the declining popularity of Japanese dramas outside of Japan (focusing on other parts in Asia) because of the rising competition from Korea, with Korean dramas being exported out as well. We shall illustrate why the Korean dramas are able to win the hearts of their audience in many parts of Asia and enjoy escalating popularity recently.

Objectives

Popular culture consists of different types of activities and entertainment pleasures, and within each domain, and in our case, in the television serial drama domain, there is a lot to be explored. The varieties and types of dramas range from family dramas, romance dramas to dramas that focus on crime, law and order. The scope here is undeniably wide and it is not possible to generalize all of them. What we are interested in our project are the mainstream dramas; we are interested in the more popular dramas that have storylines that can be related to reality and are more relevant to most people’s lives, or have received much viewership and popularity during airtime.

Having selected our scope of dramas, several themes were chosen, which can be found in most of the dramas we watched and analyzed. The first part of our essay deals with the characteristics of Japanese dramas and how they are often similar to Korean dramas. However, sometimes there are differences too, and we shall highlight these interesting differences as well. The themes to be discussed include the difference in the nature of romantic relationships in both countries, the people’s views on pre-marital sex and casual sex. We are also going to talk about taboo relationships, those of teacher-student romance, or older and more successful woman going out with a younger and less successful man. We also describe the way women are represented in the dramas. From our themes, we will then delve deeper into our observations and relate them to socio-cultural issues in the Japanese and Korean societies.

Examples of Dramas used

Love Generation was quite a big hit when it was telecasted in 1997 in Japan and subsequently exported to other Asian countries. As the title suggests, the drama is about relationships and also love triangles. The roles of the male and female leads are played by Kimura Takuya and Matsu Takako respectively. (http://www.jdorama.com/drama.243.htm)

Another drama we chose, is Hero, also another Japanese hit. The lead actor and actress mentioned earlier came together again in 2001 to produce this drama. This will be used to illustrate our explanation on the unconventional representations of Japanese women. How society expects women to behave were also portrayed in the drama, it was obvious that Japanese society values women who belong to the private domain and not getting too involved with career. (http://www.jdorama.com/drama.461.htm)

To bring in the example of teacher-student romance, we are going to use Forbidden Love, or more popularly known to the Japanese as Majo no jouken. It was aired in 1999 and the soundtrack, “First Love” by Utada Hikaru became very popular (http://www.jdorama.com/drama.250.htm). Parallel to this, a Korean drama titled Romance (2002) will be our example of the Korean views and attitudes towards teacher-student romance (http://www.jkdramas.com/kstars/kimjaewon.htm). Apart from these few dramas, other relevant dramas will be mentioned in our paper.

Length and Style

In general, most of the Japanese dramas are shorter than Korean dramas. The latter sometimes gives the effect of dragging the storyline and are less compact than the Japanese dramas. Therefore, Japanese dramas are thought to be more concise and straightforward; also, there are less of tear-jerking scenes as compared to Korean dramas. We account this difference in length and mood to the lifestyles of the Japanese and Korean people.

On the global scale, Japan is ahead of Korea in terms of their advancement in the economy. Japan is usually categorized as being a developed country while Korea is still classified as a developing country. Usually, in a country with a more advanced and open economy, the people of that country will lead a faster pace of life than those from a developing country. With such a fast pace of life, the Japanese are almost always too caught up with their work life and their career. There could be a greater tendency that they rank career as more important as their family. To some, their workload is unlimited and they barely have time for leisure activities and entertainment. Even if they do, they can only afford a little time. The Koreans relatively have a slower pace of life and should have more leisure time. From the nature of the society, we can determine the explanation of the length of television dramas. For pragmatic reasons, Japanese producers cannot produce dramas that are too lengthy.

Symbols Used in the Dramas

Symbols are frequently used in dramas to emphasize the plot of the show and to make the drama more interesting. Symbolism usually involves a person, object, idea or action that stands for something. This technique livens up the drama and provides a systematic method to engage viewers to follow the show closely. The selected symbols are repeated shown in the drama to remind viewers of the themes and plots of the show.

This phenomenon of using symbols in Japanese dramas is very prominent. Some of the examples that we have employed for this project include the glass apple in Love Generation where it symbolizes that the love shared by the lead couple is pure and sweet yet so fragile. This ironical impression of love helps develop the plot even more intriguing and interesting. The Tokyo tower as a token of love in Overtime brings out the imagery and memories of the opposite partner. “The Creation of Man”, a painting by famous painter, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, was used as the main theme of the Japanese popular drama series Forbidden Love. The picture was re-illustrated as the student lifting his languid hand to his teacher, indifferent to the coming agonies of being in love with his schoolteacher. He did not change into a different physical being but rather in moral and spiritual ways. The love between the teacher and the student is also being symbolized to be one that transcends boundaries and it is love that connects them, two people from different levels in society. The drama focused on the situations that caused such changes and how all the agonies and problems were eventually solved with the prevailing of true love. Other examples of dramas that use symbolism to represent the plot of the shows include “Hero” with repeating telecast of Sell-a-vision and in “Dear Lord, please give me more time” where they use a song to expand on the plot.

Korean dramas were basically not well known for employing such techniques until in recent years where such dramas are becoming big hits in the show industry of Asia. One such production that engages in symbolism is the drama series depicting romance in the different seasons, (“Autumn In My Heart”, “Winter Sonata”, “Summer Scent”) produced by director Yun Seok Ho. In these dramas, Yun demonstrated his supremacy in making melodramas using symbolism, parallelism, repetition, and timing, as provocative ways to stir emotions and draw tears from the audience. The main symbols in “Winter Sonata” include the star Polaris (representing the male lead), the missing puzzle piece (representing the female lead in the male lead’s life) and the first snowfall of winter(representing the meeting of the two lovers) appeared repetitively throughout the drama to emphasize the point of their significance they contributed to the story. Furthermore, the excellent use of parallelism and repetition compounded the dramatic effects in many scenes of the drama.

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Family Values & Lifestyles

The representation of families in Japanese and Korean dramas does display very significant differences which, in turn, reflects their different cultures despite their close proximity in terms of geographical distance. Some of the examples of lifestyle discrepancies are living spaces, behavior and attitudes towards work and family and also how they handle situations when they have to struggle between work and love life, or between family and romantic relationships.

Japan is one of the largest countries in terms of the manufacturing and exporting of goods in the world, positioned just after the United States of America. Japan embraces globalization and its citizens lead a hectic and fast paced life. This results in a high standard of living in Japan where land is expensive and living spaces become very small. For the sake of convenience, they also choose to live away from their hometown and stay near to their workplace, hence leading an independent life. Living near their workplace facilitates them going to work, but causes them to compromise on family life as they hardly do see their family. Since they do not live near their family, the interaction between members of the family is greatly reduced, causing family members to be less close to one another. We are able to see this through the small apartments the single characters live in, in the Japanese dramas.

The Japanese also have lifestyles that are very similar to the Western counterparts due to Western influence. Japanese have become more independent and yearn desperately for freedom, away from family. The traditional values of family bonding and appreciation got lost amidst the influx of globalization forces. Aside from the fact it facilitates their going to work, it is also due to the wish to have more personal, private space. Given the fact that Japanese apartments are small and cramped, there is little privacy for the Japanese if they live with their family. This lack of personal space will cause them to be restricted in their freedom and the way they lead their lives. When they live alone, they can then lead the kind of life they wish to lead without the scrutiny or judgment of their family members, especially their elders.

Aside from the issue of living space, in the Japanese dramas, it is not unusual to see many of the plots portraying the actors or actresses having to struggle between both family and love with their careers. Typically, the ultimate ending of the drama will show that career would usually be the first priority before others. Even in dramas where romance is the main theme, the male characters will also focus greatly in their work and they usually display the hailed Japanese value of perseverance and endeavor to excel in their jobs. They do not only focus on romance but reflect the way society is like and very likely, also an ideal of what they should be like.

Koreans, however, are different in this aspect. Firstly, Korean dramas show the characters living in much more spacious houses and the importance of family bonding is very clearly shown in such dramas. The occurrence of family meetings and dinners reinstate this point very explicitly. The hierarchy and the roles of the different members in the family are also very clearly drawn out in Korean dramas. Though both the Japanese and the Koreans are rooted in Confucian beliefs, the Koreans, being more conservative and very rigid in their beliefs and traditions tend to preserve these Asian values and have them rooted deeply in their behavior.

The Korean dramas, by far, show less of a priority on careers in their dramas as the most important aspect in the lives of Koreans. The most prominent factor in Korean dramas is actually romance, following alongside is family. Thus, most of the dramas will show the tension to choose between love and family, especially if the family should object to the romantic relationship. There is a constant desire throughout to gain the approval of the elders in the family, especially the parents or the grandparents. The body of content of the Korean dramas is also usually on working out such problems and finding a resolution. The resolution is then achieved by striking a balance between family and love. In the process, moral dilemmas and respect or desires for family’s approval are essential. The content of the drama thus reflects values that are highly held in Korean society. When they indeed do bring up incidents which deviate from the norm, they are usually reflective of the types of problems that are present in the society. Dramas are then important mediums in the transmission of such ideals and values to the masses. In comparison to Japanese dramas, they reflect issues that the audience find easier to relate to.

Romantic Relationships

It is very common to see in Japanese dramas where the show usually starts off with a relationship and after which the ‘true’ relationship will then begin in the main portion of the show. This shows how the casualness of relationship in Japanese dramas such that they can be involved into another relationship just right after the previous one. In Korean dramas the relationship would always begin and end with the same relationship although along the way much distractions and diversions will occur to produce its dramatic effect. The Korean relationship will usually start with the long-term considerations of marriage in their minds. Thus, they have already pictured out their ideal partner for life and seek to search one that deems fit. They do place a very strong emphasis on marriage and believe that each relationship should always be leading to the next level which is marriage. However, the Japanese will actually look for one without knowing what their idealistic partner should be or how they should act like. Thus, the relationship is usually very casual and can be changed within a short period of time. Even if the relationship will result in marriage, it is also just bluntly described or most details are skipped in the dramas. This shows how faithful and devotedness a Korean relationship can be but not a Japanese relationship.

Matchmaking, a seemingly outdated vehicle in terms of marriage, still prevails as an option in Korea and Japan, as we can see in both Korean and Japanese dramas. This is probably due to their increasing hectic work life and thus they have no free time to make friends and know other people. Therefore, it provides an opportunity to let them meet people outside of their social circle and hopefully they can meet the right person and make preparations for marriage. This is very important for Japanese as the average age of Japanese women getting hitched is increasing into their late twenties and early thirties. Hence, matchmaking is seen as a final option for them, and no longer the predominant way of getting married.

Attitudes towards Pre-marital Sex and Casual Sex

The levels of intimacy in Korean and Japanese dramas differ to a great extent and this shows how liberal they are and their openness towards intimacy in relationships. It is evident that in Japanese dramas, they are not afraid to show scenes whereby the characters go to love hotels (which are rampant in Japan) or where they pick girls up to go to motels to have a one night stand. In other instances, they also show the characters in love having sex (though they usually show the morning after and not the act itself).

In Japanese dramas, it is not difficult to find scenes whereby there is passionate kissing, half naked bodies or scenes of fondling and the likes of it.
However, in Korean dramas, the clothes of the characters are always intact and there is little display of intimacy or passion or show of skin. In the opening scene of Love Generation for example, we see Teppei (played by Kimura Takuya) calling his ex-girlfriends up for a romp or one night stands. Then he meets Riko (played by Matsu Takako), for the first time and he tries to pick her up. They then go to a love hotel where he admits to her that sex is all he has on his mind, and comments that girls who agree to go to love hotels with strangers usually do not just keep singing karaoke. Rather, they will be acting coy or innocent, of which Teppei then mimicks the way they speak, whereby he says these girls will be saying they are shy and they do not know what underwear they are wearing and the likes of it to further enhance the mood for love-making. This is then reflective of the way young people in Japan behave and possibly highlighting a prominent social issue. The title Love Generation already suggests that it is about the generation of people who talk about love and use love as the basis of building relationships, thus this scene could be reflective of the way they view love nowadays and the behavior they adopt.

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When we do a cross-cultural comparison with Korean dramas, it is evident that such scenes will never happen in the Korean dramas due to the way ideas and values they wish to project through their dramas. Nevertheless, it is not impossible that such things do happen in Korea, but the social agenda behind the dramas wish to propagate a different ideal in the hope that it will be how society is like.

Activeness and Passivity of Japanese and Korean Women

Another difference in the cultures of the two countries is the activeness and passivity of women. In Japanese dramas, the women are more active in romantic relationships and are portrayed as more likely to take the initiative, where we can see them making the first move in relationships. This is unlike the women in Korea dramas, where they are usually more passive and the men will take on the active roles in relationships.

In terms of their romantic relationships and the roles in their relationships, it is possible to distinguish between Korean and Japanese cultures. It is obvious that in Japanese relationships, many Western values are incorporated into their lives now. Relationships are becoming more casual and less like the Asian forms of traditions and values. Koreans still possess Confucian values when it comes to relationships and there still exists ideas like the guy should make the first move in a relationship and they will always seek for their ideal partner in a relationship rather than just hanging out with someone, not caring if he is going a suitable candidate for marriage or not. This is essentially different from that portrayed in Japanese dramas.

Taboo

The level of tolerance for taboos, especially in romantic relationships varies from society to society. There are many situations in which people are condemned because of their moral inadequacy. Unwed mothers are shunned, especially in more traditional countries in Asia such as, Japan and Korea. Relationships between a celebrity and a commoner or between an older woman and younger man are also avoided. Being patriarchal societies, Japan and Korea seldom embrace relationships between a more successful woman and a less successful man, like the example of the Japanese drama, Love Revolution, where a journalist falls in love with an established woman doctor who is not only more successful than him, but also older than him. When they both persisted to remain in their respective social positions, they could not be together. It is only when they both give up their jobs and go to live in the countryside are they able to finally be together without the need to think about the disparity in their social statuses. This is reflective of the values held in the Japanese society. If they had been tolerant of the woman being more successful than the man and portrayed the man as not taking heed that the woman was more successful than him, it might not have been an accurate portrayal of society or rather, the level of openness in society.

We then focus on the romantic relationships between teachers and students. Every society has their qualms about teacher-student romance and the teachers in the relationships are often seen as being unprofessional and corrupting their students. However, every society tends to have varying attitudes towards such relationships. Some are more tolerant while others absolutely disagree with their doings. On another level, is the issue of whether the matter is open or one happening behind closed doors. The values behind breaking such taboos can be highly dependent on whether the matter is an open one or not. For the people directly involved, they display different attitudes towards how much they care about societal views and familial views on them, as we shall go on to dissect the difference in the Korean and Japanese versions of the teacher-student romance.

In the Japanese drama, Forbidden Love, we see that love rules the relationship between a 26 year old female teacher and a 17 year old male, high-school student. There is a sort of double taboo in relationships like this, because it involves a teacher who iss an older woman with a younger male student. They are aware of how society will judge them if their relationship came to light and they tried to make an effort to keep it under the sheets and continue with their relationship.

One of the scenes involved a love declaration by the teacher to the student in the school library, after which they spent the night there and woke up in the morning, naked and trying to get dressed. This suggests that they have sexual relations and it is in a public place in the school library, displaying a kind of secret rebellion and showing a disregard to the integrity of the school and their relative positions in school. However, in Romance, the Korean version, things were very different. Although the romance was also between an older female teacher and a younger male teacher, the culture being a little more conservative, the level of intimacy was also rather low as compared to that of Forbidden Love. The age difference was also being played down by the choice of the stars chosen to play the roles, for they do not look as awkward as a couple as the previous couple in Forbidden Love. During the scene when the teacher confesses her feelings towards her male student, she speaks of how she wishes to have the approval of the student’s father and hopes they work towards letting everyone around them understand eventually why they choose to break this taboo. After the confession, they merely hugged and had a light kiss on the lips. Thereafter they are seen frolicking near the waters by the beach, playing with the children there. It was nothing passionate like that in the Japanese version. There were no signs of sexual relations between them and they portray a very innocent kind of relationship unlike the scandalous nature of the teacher-student relationship in Forbidden Love.

In Romance, the female teacher would rather let the people around her be aware of her relationship with her student and would prefer if approval was given to them, if not, she would not feel comfortable. From here, we can see that Koreans are more likely to consult family members or their peers before carrying out the relationship whereas Japanese are more likely to ignore approval and go on with their individual decisions. We also observe how the “backstage” and “frontstage” characteristic of Japanese societies are shown clearly, where they might appear to be one thing on the surface, but are different when they are not under the watch of others.

Conventional/Unconventional Representations of Japanese and Korean Women
Female leads in television dramas are not always portrayed as demure and sweet and as the good housewife. There are often roles of career-minded and the more uncouth ones. In Japanese and Korean dramas, we observe that there are usually two distinct types of women characters, one will be the epitome of what they feel is the ideal woman in their society and the other is the unconventional woman, usually placed side by side in scenes to show their contrast in desirability, especially. On the other hand, it could be a way of presenting the ideal but having the antithesis of the ideal to show the reality of women in contemporary Japan and Korea.

In the Japanese drama, Hero, the career-minded woman was viewed negatively because of her lack of knowledge of household chores even though she was very capable in her office duties. The men in the office acknowledged her capability in the workplace but did not think of her as a good wife who would be able to take care of them and the household chores, showing a preference for the woman who embodied traditional values. The scene we picked out showed the career woman peeling and cutting an apple, with her male colleagues gasping in profound amazement. The result was disastrous as the apple was badly and unevenly cut up. Then two other women entered the scene and immediately concluded it must have cut by a male, thereby showing the stereotypes in Japanese society. One of the women then proceeds to cut another apple and her slices are even and the two plates of apples are placed beside each other, while the men praise the traditional woman’s apple slices and commented how it is still better to have a woman who can do such chores well. This shows that, in patriarchal Japanese society, the career or professional domain should be reserved for the men instead of the women whom they believe should stay at home to take care of the house.

Similarly in the Korean drama, My Love Patzzi, the uncouth and ill-mannered girl was disliked and condemned in the beginning because she did not conform to the ideal or conventional image of what a woman in her society should be like, in contrast to her colleague who was gentle, soft spoken and dressed in very feminine clothes. The latter was very popular among the guys, in stark contrast to the uncouth girl. However, in the end, the resolution was that inner beauty still triumphs over appearance because the show ended with the downfall of the seemingly demure girl as her demure pretense was being torn apart and the sincerity of the uncouth girl shone through.

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Rising Popularity of Korean Dramas over Japanese Dorama

The current trend is the increasing popularity of Korea dramas, to the extent that it has overtaken Japanese dramas. This could be due to three factors, namely the time, the content of the dramas and the promotion of Korean idols.

The timing in which Korean dramas were introduced was a crucial factor in explaining its popularity. In the mid-to-late 1990s, it was Japanese dramas like Long Vacation and Beach Boys that were very popular in Asia. However, over time, the Japanese television industry started to stagnate, causing the decline of Japanese popularity in Asia. It was also during this period that the Korean dramas entered into Asia, causing a huge wave of popularity. (Lee, S. Seoul Survivor [2003, April 8] Straits Times)

The huge Korean wave in Asia was likewise generated by Asian viewers’ preferences for Korean dramas as compared to the previously popular Japanese dramas due to their content. (Lee, S. Seoul Survivor [2003, April 8] Straits Times) Japanese dramas are inclined to be fixated on rose-tinted and idealistic fantasy worlds, bordering on being whimsical. They tend to be full of energy and challenge the imagination of viewers. For example, Japanese dramas display alternative relationships such as teacher-student relationships or relationships between celebrity and ordinary people. On the other hand, Korean dramas are more realistic, simple and down-to-earth. They depict the details of the inner sides of each character with classic themes of tangled relationships, status differences, envy and eternal first loves that satisfy audiences’ longing for stories that reflect their daily lives or stories that allow them to be able to immerse themselves in the old-fashioned era of undying love and love that lasts forever. It also acts as an escape from the real world, for in the Korean dramas, the men are almost always portrayed as being sensitive new-age guys who place their priority and importance on the woman they love. They are different and are not afraid to express their love and cry for love, which seem to be an attractive trait to women especially.

In addition, the Korean dramas are often rooted in “Confucian values” (Lee, S. Seoul Survivor [2003, April 8] Straits Times) such as placing family before self and respect for parents, run throughout the plot. Such values are common among Asian countries and therefore Asian viewers from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Southeast Asian countries can relate to these dramas more readily.

Not only do the timing and content explain the increasing popularity of Korean dramas and the declining popularity of Japanese dramas, Korean’s active promotion of the idols overseas also explains Korean’s popularity. (Lee, S. Seoul Survivor [2003, April 8] Straits Times) Unlike Korea, Japan has not really adopted the habit of promoting her stars abroad. Therefore, this gives Korea an edge over Japan as viewers are given the opportunity for more personal contact as they meet their favorite Korean stars. At the same time, this allows the Korean stars to receive more exposure and recognition among Asian viewers. Hence, this explains the declining popularity of Japan to Korea.

The popularity of Korean dramas led to the establishment of a large following of supportive fans. The fans “are like the effective extensions of a public relations department” (Yano, 1997) and promotes the idols in various ways. They set up fan clubs and websites of their idols and dramas as well as populate any upcoming promotional events. They purchase products such as the necklaces shown on the Korean drama “winter sonata” and “stairway to heaven”. Moreover, they also write in to request for Korean dramas to be aired on television. For example the Straits Times reported that when the Korean drama serial “Autumn In My Heart” ended its 20-episode run last November, Channel U was inundated with 1,000 calls and e-mail messages requesting a rerun, which it screened in April. (Tan, H.C. The march of hot Korean hunks [2002, September 22] Straits Times).

Similarly, the tourism industry has been booming due to the popularity of Korean dramas. With more Korean dramas being broadcasted, Korea becomes a favorite holiday destination. The Korean National Tourism Organisation (KNTO) assistant bureau chief Park Young Su stated that they receive 130,000 tourists from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand going to Korea because of the success of autumn in my heart and winter sonata. (Lee, S. Seoul Survivor. (2003, April 8). Straits Times.) One of the main attractions is the perfectly chosen backdrop, such as the autumn sceneries and blooming chrysanthemums in Endless Love, which add to the romanticism that lures Asian viewers to travel to Korea to visit locations where the dramas were filmed. (Boentaram, L. Korean TV series continues success of Asian dramas. [2002, August 16] The Jakarta Post) Deluxe hotels in the Gangnam area of Seoul, well-known for the locations that appear in popular Korean dramas such as Winter Sonata and Stairway to Heaven, are reportedly making collaborative marketing efforts to attract tourists to visit Korea. The hotels have even come up with a 39-page booklet titled “Gangnam” that introduces places frequently visited by Korean celebrities, and restaurants and cafes that appear in Korean dramas. (Gangnam hotels come together to attract Japanese Hanryu tourists. [2004, October 24] Dong-A Ilbo Daily) Tour agencies have organized tour packages themed on television drama, such as “Autumn in my Heart Trail”. In Singapore, despite the outbreak of SARS, SA (UIC), a travel agency in Singapore, reportedly had more than 500 passengers who booked to leave for group tours to Korea (Lee, S. Seoul Survivor. [2003, April 8] Straits Times).

Besides the fans and the tourism industry, television idols have started moving into other media sectors such as advertising, movies, music and even books. Television idols have moved into movie acting. For example, Won Bin from the Korean drama “autumn in my heart” had recently acted in the Korean movie “The Brotherhood of War” that was shown here in Singapore recently. In addition, Korean stars like Bae Yong Jun from the Korean drama Winter Sonata, has moved into advertising and is featured in several advertisements of Lotte, LG, Sony and others. There has also been news of him posing for photos for his upcoming pictorial book to mark his 10th year in show business, which will be released in Korea and across Asia (Aunties, beware. [2004, October 25] Straits Times).

The popularity of Korean dramas resulted in spillover effects into other sectors that affect both the fans and the idols alike. However, we cannot assume that these spillover effects are only limited to Korea. At the peak of their popularity, Japanese stars and the dramas also experience these effects as well. However, with her declining popularity in Asia as Japan is being overshadowed by Korea, these effects are less obvious for Japan and more prominent for Korean. Korea’s popularity does not represent that Korean cultural products are on the verge of global domination. The fact remains that Japan is still the undisputed giant of Asian cultural exports, dwarfing all competitors in exports ranging from animation to video games to pop songs. Japanese giants such as Sony are major producers of Japanese movies and music. While Seoul’s cultural exports reach into the millions of dollars, Japan’s reach well into the tens of billions, making it the undisputed center of Asian cultural exports-those generated from domestic assets and from assets abroad (The next level for Korean cultural product exports. [2004, September 1] Business Korea).

Conclusion

The themes shown in television dramas reflected on Japanese and Korean reality. Certain characteristics of society are evident in such dramas. Very often, we identify evidence of patriarchy, or even, their nostalgia with traditional values. The very difference we can identify from watching Japanese and Korean television serials is that the Japanese are more open and receptive to changes outside their society. They do adopt these characteristics sometimes while still holding on their own values.

Japan is sometimes seen as ‘the America of Asia’, being the leader in advancement. Therefore, Japan is also sometimes identified as being more Western than other Asian countries are. It is probably due to their attitude, being more open and receptive, that allows them to adopt certain Western practices and they are relatively more Westernized than their Korean counterparts. It cannot be helped if Korean society is thus seen as more conservative and traditional than Japanese society.

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About the author

Nadia Petrova

I'm running this blog because I love Japanese culture, especially the art of geisha. When I was a little girl, I used to dream of becoming a geisha myself. In my spare time, I enjoy watching good anime and reading some manga.

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