Son Ye-jin and Hyun Bin, in the South Korean series

LETTER FROM TOKYO

At the lowest political level, relations between Japan and South Korea flourish in popular culture.

K-Pop TV series and groups are fueling news hallyu (“Korean wave”) in the Archipelago, as evidenced by the exhibition dedicated to the South Korean “drama” Crash Landing on You, open Friday January 8 in the new space in the trendy Harajuku district of Tokyo. Hundreds of photos and objects adorn reconstructions of iconic scenes from the series. Ticket cost: 1,800 yen (14 euros), a rather high price for an exhibition, which will then be presented in Osaka, Fukuoka and Nagoya.

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Its inauguration benefited from the revelation on 1er January by the South Korean site Dispatch, of the relationship – in real life – between the main actors of the series, Son Ye-jin and Hyun Bin, information widely relayed by the Japanese press.

Crash Landing on You tells with a touch of humor and a touch of romanticism the story of a South Korean, rich heiress and successful businesswoman, who fell by chance in North Korea after a paraglider flight that had gone wrong. With the help of a People’s Army officer, she immerses herself in the daily life of North Koreans – it is painstakingly reconstructed through in-depth interviews with refugees from the North – with the hope of returning to South.

“Korean Third Wave”

Aired at the end of 2019 on the South Korean cable channel TVN, the series was put online in February 2020 by Netflix. Eleven months later, it remains at the top of the most viewed programs in Japan. Rumor has it that even the Japanese Foreign Minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, saw and liked it.

The South Korean producers seem to have the recipe to seduce the public of the Archipelago. In the top 10 most popular shows on Netflix in Japan were on January 10 Parasite, film by Bong Joon-ho, and the series Itaewon Class – she describes revenge in bustling Itaewon in the heart of Seoul -, Run On – a story of love and ambitions in the worlds of sport and the arts -, and Start-up, which features the South Korean universe of information technology.

Added to the popularity of K-Pop and its groups BTS or Blackpink, the success of South Korean soap operas shows that Japan lives, admits the local press, a real “Korean third wave”. The premiere swept in the early 2000s with television series like Winter sonata. A second was based on the musical successes of groups such as Kara or TVXQ.

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