Japan’s ‘Korean Third Wave’ Despite Diplomatic Tension

– BlackPink
Blackpink took on one of the U.S.’s largest festivals when it played Coachella Valley Music & Arts festival April 12. The group visited North America, Europe, Australia and Asia on its 2019 world tour.

The effect of the deepening diplomatic rift between Japan and South Korea has greatly affected trade between the two countries, though to judge from Japanese media reports the main loser is Japan. Headlines and stories highlight South Korean consumer boycotts of Japanese products and content, inlcuding Japanese animated films, which are normally very popular in South Korea. 

On the other hand, the rift seems to have had little if no effect on the popularity of K-pop in Japan, though Japanese media, even under normal circumstances, tend to underreport such success. Very few press outlets mentioned that K-pop duo TVXQ were the biggest concert draw in Japan in 2018 in terms of raw attendance. 
However, a recent long article in Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun newspaper profiled the Shin Okubo district of Tokyo, which is considered the heartland of Korean culture in Japan, and found that the popularity of Korean music, cosmetics, food and other cultural phenomena was undiminished in the face of overwhelming Japanese official enmity toward South Korea; or, at least, it is among Japanese youths. 
The newspaper said that, in fact, Japan is presently going through its “third Korean Wave,” which is actually broader in scope than previous Korean Waves, which focused on particular cultural items, like TV dramas or K-pop. But even Mainichi did not mention the scale of K-pop popularity at present. Several major K-pop groups are holding Japan tours this summer that are selling out arenas and stadiums, and BTS broke the record for weekly sales with its new single released in early July. 
A Korean professor who teaches at a Japanese university told Mainichi that, unlike Korean youth, Japanese youth are famous for compartmentalizing their preferences. In surveys they may align with their elders in saying they disapprove of South Korea, but they also like what they like, and what they like is K-pop, Korean cosmetics, Korean food and Korean fashion. A survey conducted by a Japanese trend company found that 90 percent of female Japanese teens said that the “origin” of the trends they follow is South Korea.
On the other side of the divide, the Korea Times reports that Korean fans of the K-pop boy band Exo are demanding that the group’s concerts slated for December 20 and 21 in Fukushima, Japan, be cancelled because of fears of lingering radiation around the Fukushim Dai-ichi nuclar power plant, which suffered a meltdown following the massive earthquake and tsunami of March 2011. 
The concerts will take place at the Sekisui Heim Super Arena in Miyagi Prefecture, which is about 130 kilometers from the stricken power plant. Though the arena is located in an area that has been deemed safe by local authorities, the South Korean government still restricts agricultural imports from seven surrounding prefectures due to the fear of radiation, a decision that is one of the foundations for the diplomatic rift between Japan and South Korea. Fans say the risk is too serious. 
“Did their agency get blinded by money,” one fan wrote in social media, referring to Exo’s management company SM Entertainment. The Korea Times points out, however, that several K-pop groups, including TVXQ, have performed in Miyagi Prefecture, where the arena is located, with no discernible ill effects. 
In coming months a number of K-pop acts are releasing records in Japan and putting on major tours in support of those records, including Winner, Mamamoo, IZ*ONE (which contains Japanese members), Monsta X and Blackpink. However, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, the fate of these activities at the moment is “in limbo” owing to the trade rift, especially given that South Korean consumers seem to be intensifying boycotts and other anti-Japan retaliation. Japanese consumers tend to be less demonstrative about such things, but surveys indicate that the conflict is having a negative effect on the average Japanese person’s image of South Korea. But as the Mainichi pointed out, young people don’t seem to carry this feeling over to their cultural pursuits. 
A representative of the Korean Cultural Center in Japan told Yonhap, “So far, the cultural exchange front [between Korea and Japan}, including the Korea Wave, has experienced little impact. Still many Japanese people take culture separately from politics, but the mood is feared to get worse if reports of Korean rallies against Japan continue.”