Along with its music, K-pop brought its culture, food, language and most things else Korean to the world. While widespread craze over all things Korean can be seen across lands swept by the Hangul wave, Japan has found ways to welcome their neighbour while mitigating their influence and averting a potential cultural overhaul.
The extremities such influences go to can often bring about a larger change than imaginable. What used to be a mini-concert performance patronised by the few in the small corner of an Akihabara theatre, where the names of its performers were barely known to anyone else outside the manga-loving crowd has now, not just made it across the nation in Japan with the creation of SDN48, SKE48, NMB48 and HKT48 following its predecessor band AKB48, they’ve even made it to Islamic nation Indonesia with the formation of JKT48 and an apparently foreseeable upcoming audition for a Singapore sister band. On top of that, fast-rising economic powerhouse, China, has a copy band in AK98.
With the number of people going ga-ga over, well yes, Lady Gaga, but also Korean pop culture, Japan has managed to moderate the effects of such invasion. While bands like 少女時代 (SNSD) tour the world and sing their songs in Korean for their beloved fans, they hardly do the same in Japan. Or should I say, never.
The Korean wave in Japan is by no means small. However, Korean bands who make it to Japan more often than not have Japanese versions of the same song. The language then becomes less a requirement for the Japanese crowd to enjoy their favourite bands’ music. Keeping in mind, to understand Speed‘s songs was what brought me to the language, the culture and ultimately the country. Bands like Kara who used to portray the empowered female with their hit song Mr. has had their image changed to the sweet-loving one to suit the Japanese audience. And Korean bands are more than willing to do that because Japan has the 2nd largest music market in the world after the US of A.
This is a win-win situation for Japan as they are able to bring in the highly professional Korean artistes and melt them into the Japanese pot, thus ensuring the growth of their entertainment industry while forging good ties with their neighbours.
Perhaps Singapore should get these bands to take a lesson or two from Mr. Brown and sing songs in Singlish. The only problem is, our market’s too small.