Asian News 2/16

Remarks Lead To Hiatus

J-pop superstar Kumi Koda has landed herself on indefinite hiatus as punishment for a crack she made on the radio regarding the wombs of older women.

The husky-voiced singer, known for her revealing getups and nail art, not to mention her candid and crude personal interview style, was the main guest on the AM radio show "All Night Nippon" several weeks ago. "All Night Nippon" is an infamous late-night talk show where comedians and other show biz personalities can usually say anything they want, even if it’s in poor taste.

During her exchange, Koda talked about her female manager, who recently got married. She said she told her manager she should have children as soon as possible, because "the amniotic fluid becomes spoiled once a woman turns 35. It’s true. It gets dirty."

Though no one on the program expressed shock at what was obviously a joke, albeit a very bizarre one, Internet chat sites quickly spread outrage over the remark, saying it was insulting toward older women with motherly intentions.

The subject is very sensitive in Japan, where the birthrate has dropped so low that the population is shrinking.

The furor became so great that several companies have canceled expensive advertising campaigns using Koda. More seriously, Avex, her record company, has suspended all promotion related to Koda’s new album, Kingdom, which was released January 31 and immediately went to No. 1 on the Oricon album chart.

Most show biz reporters say that Koda’s comment offended mainly older women, who don’t like her anyway, and that Koda’s fan base of women mostly her age (25) or younger have no problem with what she said.

At any rate, Kingdom is still the No. 1-selling album in Japan, selling 500,000 copies as of February 12.


NK Concert To Be Televised

ABC News and WNET, New York’s Public Broadcasting Service station, have announced that they will jointly produce a broadcast of the New York Philharmonic’s historic concert in Pyongyang, North Korea, February 26.

The concert will first be aired live on WNET and then rebroadcast on the PBS network two days later.

A large part of the cost of sending the orchestra to North Korea is being borne by a Japanese philanthropist who has lived most of her life in Italy.

Ironically, Yoko Nagae Ceschina, the philanthropist, said that when the Philharmonic contacted her about the proposed trip she was completely unaware of the tension between North Korea and Japan over the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by Pyongyang spies in the ’70s and ’80s.

"I don’t know about politics," she told Kyodo News. "But I agreed to support the concert, hoping that music will help bring about peace."