Despite territorial disputes and historical misunderstandings, South Koreans’ interest in Japanese culture remains unwavering. Ties between Japan and South Korea have gone sour as both governments claim the islands of Takeshima or Dokdo, among other issues, but the latter’s people have kept their appreciation for the former’s culture. Recent Japanese art exhibitions were swarmed by Koreans, while a Japanese author even hit the top of South Korea’s bestselling authors.
During the exhibition of Yayoi Kusama’s works at the Daegu Art Museum in the country’s southeastern region, the number of Koreans who visited over a month reached 135,000. It was a feat that surpassed expectations. On August 15, the commemoration of South Korea’s Liberation Day and of Japan’s surrender in the Second World War, the number of attendees was expected to drop. However, such was not the case. “There were 5,000 visitors even on the August 15 anniversary of the liberation of the Korean Peninsula from Japanese colonial rule,” a museum official said. “It seems that culture overcomes political difficulties,” the official added.
Other Japanese exhibitions – Takahashi Murakami’s and Studio Ghibli’s animation layout designs – have also become a hit to the Koreans. Both were held in Seoul. “Something unique about pieces of Japanese modern art, as represented by Murakami’s [works], is that they reflect Japan’s ‘otaku’ geeky culture while overturning the negative image of the geekiness,” said a local critic who refused to be identified. He also said that the loss of Chinese art’s momentum caused the Koreans to turn to Japanese art. “This concept has been well-received by South Koreans, especially by the young,” he added.
Japanese animations movies, especially those created by Studio Ghibli, are a hit in South Korea. So far this year there has been 37 Japanese manga-inspired movies, the Korean Film Council revealed. That number proves that the soured ties of Japan and South Korea have not sullied the Koreans’ appreciation and fondness of Japanese art.
Besides art, the Koreans also patronize Japanese literature. The works of Haruki Murakami, Keigo Higashino, Miyuki Miyabe, and Kaori Ekuni have become a hit in South Korea. Back in April, bestselling author Murakami did ‘rave reviews and record-breaking sales’ in Japan for his latest novel, Shikisai wo Motanai Tazaki Tsukuru to Kare no Junrei no Toshi (“Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage”). The same can be said in South Korea. The novel sold 350,000 copies within 40 days time and topped the best-seller list in the country.
According to The Japan Foundation, Seoul Director Hiroyuki Kojima, “People are fascinated by the spirit of craftsmanship in Japanese cultural content.” Koreans’ interest in Japanese culture is not even limited to tradition art. Pop-culture artists also have supporters in South Korea, and the same can be said for South Koreans as they also have followers in Japan. “The bilateral relationship between the two countries is so mature that politics and diplomacy do not pose an immediate influence on cultural ties,” Kojima said.
[via Japan Times]