A Korean restaurant named "Koshire" opened in August 2006 by Korean actor Bae Yong-joon
in Tokyo will be closed next month.
Grabbing more attention, however, is "K Theater", a performance hall exclusively for Korean pop music that has emerged as the mainstream of "hallyu (Korean Wave)". The theater will open in the Japanese capital's Shibuya and Ebisu districts, which are major hotspots for shopping and youth fashion.
This case illustrates that the Korean Wave's focus in Japan has shifted from "Yonsama", Bae's nickname in Japan, to K-pop.
Koshire became the Korea Wave hub in Japan after Bae opened the restaurant in Tokyo's Minato district to create "an upscale Korean Wave restaurant". Business was so good at one point that fans would say people who do not visit Koshire could hardly join chats between Korean Wave fans.
Fans would wait in long lines extending hundreds of meters even on rainy days to get into the restaurant. Recently, however, complaints have mounted that visitors have few chances to see Bae there or that prices are too high.
Ethnic Koreans in Japan also expressed regret, with one saying, "The restaurant likely won't last long".
Eventually, Koshire announced suspension of business on its Web site, saying, "We will only continue operations until late February due to aged facilities". Whether it will reopen was not clarified.
News of Koshire's closure was immediately followed by reports on the opening of K-Theater scheduled for April. The theater has paid-in capital of 1 billion yen (12 million U.S. dollars) from an entertainment management company run by Park Seok-ryol, a third-generation ethnic Korean in Japan.
Investment also came from Fuji TV, Japan's largest private broadcaster and variety show powerhouse. Other stakeholders in the theater include a former chairman of Avex, Japan's largest entertainment company, and the heads of movie studios.
The theater will exclusively stage performances featuring Korean acts twice a day year-round. It will also reportedly invite not only known Korean stars but also new faces and proactively hold fan meetings and news conferences for Korean stars.
The hope is that K-Theater grows into a hub of Korean pop music in Japan represented by TVXQ, Kara
, Four Minutes and Girls' Generation
, who are carrying on the Korean Wave first generated through hit TV dramas in the early 2000s.
Park said, "Hallyu previously reminded people of somewhat chaotic districts including Shinjuku and Shinokubo. But we now need to pursue a strategy to upgrade its quality in Shibuya and Ebisu", adding, "We will ensure that K-Theater will take root as a permanent hub of the Korean Wave (in Japan)".