JIN-298 -- "Winter Sonata" Music to Japanese Women's Ears

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Issue No. 298
Wednesday November 17, 2004

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@@ VIEWPOINT: "Winter Sonata" Music to Japanese Women's Ears

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@@ VIEWPOINT: "Winter Sonata" Music to Japanese Women's Ears

Japanese have long embraced a salad of feelings toward Korea. Guilt over the
brutal occupation of the Korean peninsula, contempt for a people who must be
inferior to suffer suppression, bewildered resentment of anti-Japanese
prejudice enshrined in curbs on the import of Japanese culture,
fear of Kim Jong Il's mercurial regime, anger over abduction of Japanese

However, Japanese perceptions of South Korea -- at least those of Japanese
women -- are undergoing a seismic shift owing to the telecast by NHK, the
quasi-public television station, of "Winter Sonata." One yardstick of the
impact of this Korean TV drama series, starring heartthrob Bae Yong Jun,
is the trend in video rentals.

Culture Convenience Club (CCC), which operates the Tsutaya chain of video
rental shops, announced in its interim report, for the period ended in September
2004, ordinary profits were up 58 percent, to a record 3.2 billion yen, over
the same period last year. CCC posted its first growth in two quarters on the
strength of rentals of old Korean videos in spite of the dampening effect of the
of the Athens Olympics on the rental market.

Sales volume was 89.6 billion yen, up 40 percent. Same-store sales were up
6.4 percent over the same period last year. Because during the Olympics fewer
people visit video rental shops, CCC had braced for an 8 or 9 percent drop in
same-store sales in August. However, this year same-store sales in August
were up by 1.5 percent.

Rentals of "Winter Sonata" and other Korean TV dramas pushed total rentals above
the 10 million mark and accounted for approximately 5 percent of the total.
Growth in rentals by women in their forties and fifties -- never a large Tsutaya
demographic -- was conspicuous.

Many younger Japanese women have not been content with vicarious love via
television. They are visiting Seoul to participate in parties with arranged
introductions to Korean men.

The parties are sponsored by a matchmaking agency called Rakuen Korea, with a
head office in Seoul and a branch in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture. After the
agency posted information on Bae Yong Jun on its Website in January, the number
of Japanese female registrants increased from 2 to 1,800.

The attraction is mutual, with a corresponding spike in the number of Korean male
registrants. Korean men believe Japanese women are kind-hearted and well-mannered.
The latter find Korean men masculine, with bodies buffed during compulsory
military service, and also straightforward in expression of love.

In a large room in a first-class hotel the Japanese women wait to meet their
potential beaus. They scan the men's faces for their own Bae Yong Jun. In the
background plays their song, "From Beginning Till Now," the theme of "Winter Sonata."
Japanese-Korean relations are definitely marching to a new beat.

-- Burritt Sabin

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Written and edited by Burritt Sabin (editors2@japaninc.com)


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