Korean dramas are becoming more and more popular in Japan. How about Korean actors?
Korean dramas are sweeping Japan through the global streaming platform Netflix. As Korean dramas became even more popular than Japanese dramas, local Japanese media and industry officials have analyzed the factors that contribute to the K-drama craze in this country. An expert said, “‘Crash Landing on You’ and ‘Itaewon Class’ are driving the craze.” He also predicted that “Crash Landing on You” is following the stronghold of “Winter Sonata” in Japan.
Based on Netflix Japan’s TV category rankings on August 15th, “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” ranked 1st place, “Itaewon Class” ranked 2nd, “A Model Family” ranked 3rd, “Crash Landing on You” ranked 7th, “Remarriage & Desires” ranked 8th, “Café Minamdang” ranked 9th. A total of 7 K-dramas made it into the Top 10.
Although “Crash Landing on You” has been released in Japan for over two years, it continues to enter the Top 10. “Itaewon Class” also climbed up the rankings after the Japanese remake was released, making more people want to watch the original.
But ironically, regardless of the K-drama craze, there is still no Korean actor that can be considered a mega-hit star in Japan, experts say. Although the Japanese industry is paying attention to the popularity of K-dramas, “there is still no second Yonsama (Bae Yong Joon), and Geun-chan (Jang Geun Suk)”.
Although “Crash Landing on You” and “Itaewon Class” can surpass the popularity of “Winter Sonata”, it is said that Hyun Bin and Park Seo Joon have not been able to outrank Bae Yong Joon in terms of popularity in Japan. Hyun Bin and Park Seo Joon are without doubt popular. However, the birth of Korean actors with explosive influence in Japan like Bae Yong Joon and Jang Geun Suk is “not yet”.
When “Winter Sonata” was broadcast in Japan in 2004, Bae Yong Joon was widely loved across the country. He was called “Yonsama”. Japanese viewers were so crazy about Bae Yong Joon that the “Yonsama craze” affected not only albums, DVDs, and character goods, but also tourism and fashion.
According to the “Korean Wave Phenomena and Cultural Industrialization Strategy Report” published by the Hyundai Research Institute in 2004, Bae Yong Joon’s “Yonsama craze” announced that the economic effect reached 2 trillion won in Japan and 1 trillion won in Korea. Bae Yong Joon not only brought Korea and Japan closer culturally, but also brought economic effects.
It was Jang Geun Suk who threatened the position of Bae Yong Joon as he later became a symbol of “Hallyu star” in Japan. Jang Geun Suk became an iconic Hallyu star comparable to Bae Yong Joon’s level when his 2011 drama “You’re Beautiful” gained great popularity in Japan. Jang Geun Suk is nicknamed “Geun-chan”. He actively communicated with Japanese fans by releasing albums and holding concerts alongside acting. He was eventually dubbed the “Prince of Asia”. Japan’s Nikkan Gendai reported in July 2011, “Jang Geun Suk is expected to earn 3 billion yen (40 billion won) from commercials, albums, concert tickets, photo books, and character sales this year alone.”
Lee Min Ho, Kim Woo Bin, Lee Jong Suk, and Kim Soo Hyun are among the most popular Korean actors in Japan as they are referred to as the “Four New Hallyu Stars” to succeed Jang Geun Suk. However, they have yet to be impactful enough to rival Bae Yong Joon and Jang Geun Suk.
An official from a Japanese production company said, “It is clear that ‘Itaewon Class’ and ‘Crash Landing on You’ are very popular, but this supports the dramas rather than the actors’ popularity.”
On top of that, the offline communication gap, which is blocked by the pandemic, cannot be ignored. The official said, “Following the popularity of K-dramas, there are usually places where you can communicate in-person with actors, such as fan meetings and showcases, but due to the pandemic, the branches that can be extended have been pruned.”
After the pandemic, Korean actors have been stretching their promotional activities such as fan meetings and showcases in Japan. Jang Geun Suk held a fan meeting in June for the first time in four years and met 12,000 fans. Seo In Guk, Jung Il Woo, and Ha Ji Won also decided to hold a fan meeting in Japan. The question is, who will be the Hallyu star who can lead the 4th Hallyu craze with their popularity by utilizing the pandemic era?