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S. Korea to lift ban on Japanese culture

Music, TV to profit from cross-cultural exchange

TOKYO — South Korea President Kim Dae-Jung said on Thursday that his country would lift its 53-year-old ban on Japanese culture, opening the door to the imports of Japanese pop music and TV programming.

After signing a joint declaration with Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi to advance bilateral relations during a visit to Tokyo, Kim promised a gradual lifting of the ban that had been imposed since Japanese colonial rule over the Korean peninsula ended in 1945.

“Lifting the ban will be a stimulus to society and it will help to further develop South Korean culture,” Kim said in an interview with Japanese pubcaster NHK.

Harsh colonial rule

South Korea imposed the ban out of anger over Japan’s harsh colonial rule, which started in 1910. Under Japanese rule, almost all vestiges of Korean culture were suppressed and students, such as Kim, were forced to learn Japanese.

In the joint declaration, Obuchi issued the first direct Japanese government apology for the colonial rule.

The removal of the ban could provide a windfall for Japanese record companies.

At present, Japanese pop acts have their master tapes shipped to South Korea, where cover versions of their songs are made in Korean. Japanese pop acts have a strong following in Korea, but until the ban is lifted, Koreans will not be able to hear the music in the original Japanese.

“South Korea has half the population of Japan and if a Japanese artist is successful there, South Korean sales could increase total sales by about 20-30% for some Japanese artists,” a spokesman for Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) said.

The Recording Industry Association of Japan heartily welcomed the move to lift the culture import ban. “Concerts in South Korea will soon be possible for Japanese artists,” a spokesman said.

Music retailer fears

The price for a CD from a foreign artist in South Korea typically sells for about $11 while the price of a CD for a Japanese artist in Japan is about $23. Industry officials are afraid that merchants will purchase CDs from Japanese artists in South Korea and resell them in Japan, undercutting retailers.

Japanese TV programming is also expected to find a new export market in South Korea. Networks such as Fuji TV, TBS and Nippon TV have already found receptive markets for Japanese programming in places such as Taiwan, Hong Kong and China.