KOREA: Seoul opens wider to Japan pop culture

Government lifts ban on cable television, satellite broadcasting

The Korea Herald
Wednesday, December 31, 2003

By O Youn-hee

The government said yesterday that it would lift a ban on the airing of Japanese cable television programs and satellite broadcasting beginning Jan. 1.

Culture and Tourism Minister Lee Chang-dong announced these and other measures to further open the nation's markets to Japanese pop culture.

But Lee said the ban on animations would be completely removed Jan.1, 2006, and that Japanese TV programs would be partially imported step by step after reviews of their impact on domestic broadcasting.

From the beginning of 2004, Japanese cultural TV programs and music concerts will be aired on KBS, MBC and SBS, the major three broadcasting stations in Korea. TV drama series intended for viewers ages 12 and over and other entertainment programs will be available only through cable channels and satellite broadcasting.

"The government will not completely remove the barriers to Japanese animated movies and television programs this time to protect the fledging domestic industry," Lee said during a news conference.

With the exception of these two categories, Korea will virtually unbolt its gates to Japanese pop culture.

The government has allowed nearly all imports of Japanese products in movies, music and console games.

Tube, a famous Japanese band, will be the first to benefit from the new policy, holding a special concert today. Other big Japanese names such as Hikaru Utada, X-Japan and Namie Amuro will later advance into the Korean pop market. Their albums will be also released in Korea in January.

In film, director Shunji Iwai's "Swallowtail" (1996) and "All About Lily Chou Chou" (2001) are ready to make their domestic debut next year.

Former President Kim Dae-jung took the initiative in 1998 to remove barriers to the import of Japanese entertainment.

Originally, Korea planned to open its market wider in 2001 but canceled it due to the row over Japan's authorization of history textbooks that were criticized for whitewashing its colonization of the Korean Peninsula.

The fourth stage of the government's plan to remove regulations banning cultural products from Japan is expected to help smooth the relationship between these two countries.

"We hope the latest measures serve an opportunity to further strengthen ties between Korea and Japan," said Minister Lee.