In the Korean communities in Japan, the term "cold spell(寒流)" is replacing "Korean Wave(韓流)." The Chinese characters of cold (寒) and Korea (韓) are pronounced the same, and the former is used to describe anti-Korean Wave sentiment. This is well seen at Shin Okubo in Tokyo, the No. 1 spot of Korean Wave in Japan. Anti-Korean rallies have been held every weekend cutting tourists there and halving sales. More than 450 Korean restaurants and cosmetics stores operating there are concerned over the downturn.
Korean Ambassador to Japan Lee Byung-kee joined Korean residents cleaning the Shin Okubo streets Friday to grasp the situation. Japanese media interviewed him while he was picking cigarette butts and wastes urging that he help heart-to-heart exchange between Korean and Japanese people. At a dinner meeting with Korean residents, Lee promised active response to rallies, to which a resident almost burst into tears saying, "A friend is the most precious when lending a help in dire situation."
The cooling Korean Wave sentiment is also felt at homes. Korean drama sales and rentals dropped nearly 20 percent year-on-year in the first four months this year. The number of Japanese people taking Korean courses at language institutes to watch Korean dramas stalled. The number of Japanese tourists to Korea plunged 76 percent year-on-year in the first five months this year. Korea`s tourism industry, hotels and airline companies are facing a dire situation.
Has Korean Wave ended in Japan? No, actually. At Japan`s largest online shopping mall Rakuten, a smartphone case is sold at around 1,000 yen (10 U.S. dollars) but the Moldir brand designed by Youngwoong Jae-joong, a member of K-pop idol group JYJ, is selling hot at nine times of the price at 8,900 yen (89 dollars). The product had topped the daily best seller list for a few days since it was released. Moldir bags also sell 20 percent higher than average bags.
Korea Tourism Organization says the number of Japanese individuals traveling to Korea due to Korean Wave remains the same. The problem is group tourists from companies who have turned to Southeast Asia and Taiwan, but they can return any time, the agency added.
Korean TV dramas are also still popular in Japan. Terrestrial broadcaster NHK airs "Dongi" from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. every Sunday, and "Secret Garden" from 12:40 a.m. for an hour every Wednesday. TBS airs "Neighbor Handsome" every day from 10 a.m. and TV Tokyo "Mushin" from 8:25 a.m. every day. Cable and satellite TVs broadcast up to nine Korean dramas a week. A Japanese woman who said she was a fan of Korean Wave said, "I can`t openly say I`m Korean Wave fan due to situations, but Korean Wave has already moved beyond being a boom and has become a daily culture in Japan."
Korean tourists in Japan are surging due to weakening yen, which is also supporting Korean Wave fans in the country. As related news are aired in TVs, the anti-Korean sentiment is subsiding. One good turn deserves another.
Perhaps due to Lee`s visit, Japan`s extreme right-wing groups cancelled their rally at Shin Okubo on Sunday. Protesters were known to march to the Tokyo Korean School and the Korean communities in Japan were keeping their eyes and ears alert. Korean residents in Japan cautiously expect the rally cancellation be a start point of reviving Korea-Japan relations and Korean Wave in Japan. It is hoped that Korean residents in Japan can smile this autumn.