In the early part of the last decade, Korean popstar BoA made a big splash in Japan with her poppy tunes and power ballads — even appearing in game soundtracks. She songstress didn’t sing in her native Korean, but in Japanese and even appeared on Japanese talkshows and variety programs, speaking fairly fluent nihongo. In the wake of a strong interest in Korean television dramas, male acts like Tohoshinki (or Dong Bang Shin Ki as they’re known in Korea) also made a splash in Japan.
Historically, the relationships between the two countries has been strained. There is so much in common, linguistically and culturally, but there are so many things that are different. The blow back from the brutality of colonization still lingers. One of the big reasons why PC gaming is so big in South Korea is because Japanese products were banned for decades. While not entirely cultural, the ban, originally was instated to help insulate and build South Korean industry, ended in 1999.
Nintendo registered a Korean subsidiary — apparently a shady operation — but finally set up an official Nintendo of Korea, releasing the Nintendo DS in 2007. The Nintendo DS was a hit, and later, Kpop group Girls’ Generation appeared in DSi ads. And if Girls’ Generation can sell Nintendo products to South Korea, then the group can probably sell Korean pop to Japan. And it is.
For all those years of tension and strife, it looks like the relationship between South Korean and Japan can be soothed with Nintendo hardware and hot pants. Who’d a thought?