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More Focus on Korea’s History, Culture Than on `Korean Wave`

More Focus on Korea’s History, Culture Than on `Korean Wave`

Posted December. 09, 2005 07:38,   


“In Japan, the Korean wave is not a bubble at all.”

Ohtakawa Go, the former director of the Seoul office and editor of international news at Asahi, said this confidently. He is an expert on Korea who spent 34 out of his 37 years as a journalist collecting news of Korea.

This time, he is determined to make Korean history correctly known in Japan. He has started to write columns for Sukara, a new Japanese magazine which was launched this month.

Sukara was named after the Korean word meaning “spoon,” which is a symbol of Korean culinary culture. It is the first paid magazine that introduces Korean culture to Japan. Its readership is Japanese women in their 20s and 30s who want to know more about Korea. Korean ceramics, pine mushrooms, Pal Gong Mountain of Daegu, and the latest Korean films are featured in its first issue.

Kwak Chung-ryang, the issuer of the magazine and a Korean-Japanese, asked Ohtakawa to write serial columns after reading his dissertation on historic issues of Korea and Japan. Kwak’s request for “columns on Korea’s history and culture with regard to the Korean wave that Japanese readers can easily understand” was in line with what Ohtakawa always had in mind. He also believed that the focus should not be on the superficial phenomenon of the Korean wave.

“Instead, we should understand the deep part of the Korean wave. Mr. Kwak and I agreed that we should face historic truth,” he said.

He uses movies and TV dramas to explain Korea’s history in an easy and profound way. His column, which is published under the title: “Professor Oh Bibimbab’s (a traditional Korean dish) Lecture” is mainly about Korea’s culture and history that are reflected in movies and TV dramas. The theme of the first issue is, of course, Winter Sonata.

“For example, the movie, which is based on the novel “An Evergreen” by Shim Hun, reflects Korea in the 1930s. Through the movie, we can also learn about the independence movement of Korea under the Japanese colonial rule. When I taught at university, I introduced historical backgrounds while watching movies with students. It was more effective than just lecturing on history.”

He returned to Korea after a year since he retired in January 2002 and worked as an advisor to the Institute of Northeast Asian Business and Economics until the end of 2004.

Yi-Young Cho lycho@donga.com