Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Japanese Women Seeking Korean Men - The Korean Wave

겨울연가, Gyeoul yeonga: Bae Yong-yoon (right) and Choi Ji-woo (left) in an advertisement for the TV series.

I've mentioned the Korean Wave or 한류 before when I wrote about Jeong-hyun Lim, Youtube's neoclassical guitar sensation.

I think the Korean Wave is absolutely one of the greatest things South Korea has going. The United States is a great example of the reach and impact of exporting culture. We've fine-tuned our ability to export our pop culture worldwide. Now the South Koreans have the chance to do the same thing.

I love seeing Japanese tourists running around Seoul with the same enthusiasm that I've seen them running around with at UCLA, my alma mater. As annoying as they were taking pictures of anything and everything we knew they were providing the school and the city of L.A. with revenue. The same is happening now in Korea.

In Japanese Women Catch the 'Korean Wave' they say that a lot of Japanese women now believe that Korean men are the ideal partner and are seeking out Korean husbands.

Thin and gorgeous in a slinky black dress, Mikimoto pearls and a low-slung diamond Tiffany pendant, 26-year-old Kazumi Yoshimura already has looks, cash and accessories. There's only one more thing this single Japanese woman says she needs to find eternal bliss -- a Korean man.

She may just have to take a number and get in line. In recent years, the wild success of male celebrities from South Korea -- sensitive men but totally ripped -- has redefined what Asian women want, from Bangkok to Beijing, from Taipei to Tokyo. Gone are the martial arts movie heroes and the stereotypical macho men of mainstream Asian television. Today, South Korea's trend-setting screen stars and singers dictate everything from what hair gels people use in Vietnam to what jeans are bought in China.

Yet for thousands of smitten Japanese women like Yoshimura, collecting the odd poster or DVD is no longer enough. They've set their sights far higher -- settling for nothing less than a real Seoulmate.
I'm incredibly interested in this perspective on Korean men. Maybe it's because I grew up in L.A., but I know that what is shown on the big screen and on TV isn't necessarily reality. In fact, more often than not it's the complete opposite of reality. However, based on these characters Asian women have now pegged Korean men as their ideal suitors.

I would say that some are as I've had a crush or two since I've been here, but well, as for the majority most seem to prefer smoking and soju to sonatas and long walks in the park. However, I do agree that a good number of young Korean men are tall, good-looking and are in great, head-turning shape.
Entertainment industry leaders in Seoul credit the phenomenon to good marketing coupled with an uncanny response throughout Asia to the expressive nature of the South Koreans -- long dubbed the Italians of Asia. A hearty diet and two years of forced military duty, industry leaders and fans insist, have also made young South Korean men among the buffest in Asia. Most important, however, has been the South Korean entertainment industry's perfection of the strong, silent type on screen -- typically rich, kind men with coincidentally striking looks and a tendency to shower women with unconditional love.

"It's a type of character that doesn't exist much in Asian movies and television, and now it's what Asian women think Korean men are like," said Kim Ok Hyun, director of Star M, a major star management company in Seoul.

"But to tell you the truth," she said. "I still haven't met a real one who fits that description."
I think Kim Ok-hyun is right, but I wish all these Japanese ladies the best of luck in their search.

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  1. I live in Shanghai, and when I first arrived here I couldn't believe the obsession with all things Korean. The younger Chinese LOVE the Korean soap operas especially (even staying up all night to watch them), and when I asked some people to give me a Chinese name, they told me my new name was beautiful- when I asked why it was beautiful, they said it was because it "sounded Korean".

    I guess the grass IS always greener.

  2. First, I just love Shanghai! I went there to meet a friend who was there for a conference and then went back a few months later on a cruise. Both times I had an absolute blast.

    The grass is greener. After I wrote that, I started taking a closer look at what would be the average man in Seoul. Like Hollywood, the average man doesn't hold a candle to the Korean star in the looks category. Back home it's the same thing. However, there are those guys where you go "wow", and since conducting my little informal observation I've seen them from time to time. (There are also those stars that when you meet them in person you realize he's 2 ft. tall and they've been shooting him from an angle.)

    Thanks for your comment!

  3. Korean and Japanese dating isn't a trend. It's historically been like that except from the late 1800's till now, so about 100 years. Even during the 1900's alot of Japanese families adopted Korean guys as their heirs, called "mukyoshi", who married the daughters. I've also read books saying that half of all marriages prior to the 1800's was were Korean-Japanese, and Emperor Akihito's comments that the marriage rate was "high". Things are more likely returning to normal.

  4. Good points that reach much further back into history than I went. I was commenting on the Korean Wave which was big when I lived there in 2006. Since then, I moved back to the States in 2009 and really haven't been keeping up with Korean pop culture or it's influence.

    At the time I wrote, due to Hallyu, Korean culture was being spread abroad and particularly so in Asian nations. However, yes, I know people who are modern day Korean and Japanese mixes. I wasn't implying (or I hope I wasn't implying) anything otherwise.

    If you talk to modern Koreans, most seem to have a palatable dislike for the Japanese because of the 1910 - 1945 occupation. So, hopefully, the export of Korean shows and music is a positive influence and is, somehow, mending some of those cultural wounds.


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