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Korean Waves Stars Shine More Brightly in Japan

2005/10/11 | 203 views | Permalink | Source

What do Bae Yong-joon, Ryu Si-won, Lee Byung-hun, Song Seung-heon and Park Yong-ha have in common? They are more popular in Japan than on their home turf in Korea. The box office record of Bae's latest movie "April Snow" clearly shows the difference. In Japan, the movie drew 1 million viewers within 12 days, breaking the island country's record for the fastest Korean film to reach that number, and is tipped to become the first Korean movie to lure more than 2 million. In Korea, by contrast, it was something of a flop, with only 806,700 people watching it in the three weeks between its release and Sept. 28.

For a long time, Caucasian or Hispanic models and actors sated the thirst for the exotic in Japan. Now, it seems, Korean actors are doing the job. A Japanese columnist says Bae's Western facial features, dazzling smile and soft voice and Choi Ji-woo's fair skin and height make them seem as alien as if they are from Mars -- and that is what makes them attractive.

Korean viewers are a little more demanding of their own stars, looking for acting skill as well as a pretty face. A producer of TV soap operas with MBC said a handsome ham will be castigated for not being able to act in Korea, but in Japan, the dubbing process will supplement his shortcomings.

Middle-aged women are the main consumers of the Korean Wave in Japan, and they find the boy-meets-girl stories they enjoyed when they were young in the 1970s in "Winter Sonata", the soap featuring Bae that started it all. Kim Young-deok, a researcher with the Korean Broadcasting Institute, says it is hard for Japanese women to find the kind of romantic male lead Bae represents among Japanese actors. Also, Korean soaps emphasize fantasy and wish-fulfillment, which are more appealing to the demographic than the grittier Japanese-made soaps.

Bae's costars -- and their costars in turn -- have benefited from the man's popularity. Both Park Yong-ha and Choi Ji-woo were part of the cast of "Winter Sonata", and the popularity of Lee Byung-hun in Japan started to soar after he starred in "Everybody has Secrets" with Choi. Bae's films and TV dramas thus serve as a veritable gateway to Japanese fame. Chae Ji-young from the Korea Culture and Tourism Policy Institute says as some Hollywood stars found a niche in Asia that extended their career span, Korean actors are finding a niche in Japan.

Source : www.chosun.com...

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