Fuyu no sonata: Japan`s new image of Korea

Kyoul yonga
(Fuyu no sonata, Winter Ballad)
and Korea-Japan relations
Alison Tokita
Monash University
June 28, 2005
Korea-Japan relations in
the past
• Inherent affinity between the two cultures
– Ethnic and linguistic
– Chinese ecumene
– Korea introduced Chinese learning to Japan
Japan’s invasions of
• 1590s - Imjin Wars
• 1905 “Protectorate” – legitmized by
International Community of the time
• 1910 Annexation
• 1910-1945 Colonial rule
Recent changes in
Japan’ images of Korea
• Korea’s economic miracle
• Spicy Seoul – mega-metropolis / tourism /
• Tourist destination: gambling, esthetic surgery,
• Creation of Korean spaces in Japan for
• Sport
• Reception of Korean popular culture
• Cinema box office hits
Postwar Korea-Japan
• Landmark events
– 1965 Diplomatic normalization
– 1988 Seoul Olympics
– 1998 Kim Dae Jung’s liberalization of
Japanese popular culture
– 2002 Co-hosting of FIFA Word Cup
– 2003-2004 Fuyu no Sonata Boom (buumu)
Korea-Japan relations
in the present
“Distant but close neighbours”
2005 Year of Korea-Japan Friendship
March 1st, Dokdo issue flared up
Perennial issues of history textbooks, Yasukuni
Shrine, Comfort Women
• Ecnomic interdependence
• Complicitness, Japanese collaborators
How to overcome the
legacy of the past?
• The potential of shared popular culture
• Chua Beng Huat: East Asian popular
cultural sphere
Soft power and
popular culture
• Joseph Nye
• Japan: deficient in military power (Peace
Constitution), and in global ideological
• But has potential soft power resources
Japan’s “Gross
National Cool”
• Douglas McGray 2002
• MOFA: Gaikou Forum Special Issue on
Cool Japan, June 2004
• Linked to ODA
• Eliding of Cool Japan and Soft Power
“Japanese Cool”
Cute is Cool too
(kawaii vs kakkoii)
Koizumi (Lionheart) is cool
Discourse of hallyu
• Two national discourses in competition
• Is this a “soft power battle”?
• Hallyu boom continues in Japan, despite
diplomatic coldness
• This is different from conventional “cultural
The Kyoul yonga effect:
Creation of Japan’s
Fuyusona boom
2003 NHK’s BS2, end of year repeat
2004 April-August NHK’s general channel
2004 December end of year repeat
May 2004 clear signs of a massive fad
with visit of Bae Yongjun – “Yonsama”
• Blogs, tourism, goods, Korean language
Causes of the
(popular explanations)
• The male lead actor Bae Yongjun
• Nostalgia; cultural proximity; but not coeval
• “Pure” love story, unrequited, indefinite
postponement of fulfillment over 20
• Characters, locales, music, fashions,
The story and its
“Secrets and Lies”
Karmic consequences
First love, true love
Memory and forgetting
Accident and injury: a major plot device
Allegoric level?
• Allegory for modernity and a break with
the premodern past
• Narrative present (2002) is bright, affluent,
Seoul centred
• Narrative past (1992 and 1968) is dark,
poor, Chuncheon centred. Has a warm
feeling as well as gloom
Snow power
Separate bright world, not the everyday
Effaces the everyday
Pure, bright, cold, clean and cleansing
Energizing, soft, playful
A medium for physical engagement
No shadows
Kang Junsang
Dark, doesn’t smile
Misfit, antisocial
Doesn’t know who his father is
Transfers to Chunchon to find father,
to find himself
• Mother is concert pianist
Li Minhyung
(present – future)
• Raised in the US
• No memory of Korea, but speaks Korean,
and has Korean body (and bodily memory)
• Seoul is his natural medium
• Happy, warm, confident (until he learns
about his past)
• “Best thing is to forget the dead”
Effacement and
recovery of memory
Junsang’s past was effaced
Memory recovered painfully
Yujin’s memory constant
Recognition and non-recognition: after
losing memory, after gaining
consciousness after accident, after 3 year
separation and blindness
• Memory restored, eyesight lost
Absence of the father
- aboji – Korea, the past
• Dangerous, dark, threatening, full of conflict, unpleasant
memories of the past
• Image of “walking on the edge / ledge”, precarious, scary
(says Sanyok), need to hold someone’s hand
• Climbing a wall is also possible (over the school wall) if
there is someone to step on
• Minyong’s dark (Korean) past was lost, effaced, replaced
with bright US past / present / future
• The love triangle of the parents’ generation is part of that
dark past from Meehee wanted to escape; she created lies
and fictions in order to do so
• Snowy world was another way of escape from the dreary
past / present, effaces the normal world, magic wonderland
of play
Bodily memory
• Bodily memory (the body remembers): smell of
her hair, memory of playing piano, nukkim
(Yonguk and Jinoo)
• Resolution / denouement possible only after
eyesight is lost, but this is compensated for by
other senses (he recognizes her presence
without sight), and the full capacity of memory
this time. (Scenes in which groping, or
blindness prevent direct meeting.)
Ethical and religious
• Regret and apology. Self-blame and
betrayal. “I will be punished for this.” “I
will never forgive you.”
• Myan hada is like a refrain. (Cheson
hamnida. Hananim yolso juseyo.) Hurting
people. Let’s not hurt those we love.
• Religious syncretism
Image conveyed by the drama
to Japanese audiences
• These are profound themes of memory
and forgetting, of pure love involving
deferral and self-sacrifice, of punishment
for bad actions
• Surely these themes have been
responsible for the impact of the drama,
not only the aesthetic appeal, the romance,
the cool Asian masculinity
Presence of Japan
A place of success, recognition of ability.
Meehee’s concert tours
Chelin’s fashion shows
Junsang and Kim’s architectural business
• The ultimate source of cultural
• Minyong “grew up” there
• Meehee’s career was
established, developed there
• Minyong retreats there when
the going gets tough in Korea
• The ultimate getaway, escape
route, place of freedom
• There is no hint of US
presence in Korea, even there
is a military base in Chunchon.
• Less work than play, and study (also a
kind of play, and a form of escape), and
cultural capital
• Chelin met Minyong there, both were
• Escape route for Yujin, as her mother
What was the consumer experience?
Commercialization and trivialization
Chiezou 2004 word of the year : Yonsama
Manga version
Character goods (life size doll, Junbear)
Theme park
Yonsama socks etc.
Fuyu no sonata village, Seoul
Fantasy dream world of
Not just a virtual experience
Tourism to location sites (like pilgrimage)
Learning Korean language
Donate to Tsunami appeal like Yonsama
Join a virtual cultural community as a
Yonsama fan and contribute to blogs
• Create links with Koreans in Japan?
Consumer experience
• Japanese (middle-aged female) fans have
responded to the deeper themes
• Reversal of directionality of Japan as
source of popular culture
• Can be read as subversive