Pop Music to Bridge Gap Among Asians


By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
Staff Reporter

Park Youn-woo has been a big fan of the Japanese pop group Arashi for almost seven years. Park, who studied Japanese, found she could easily relate to the lyrics and themes of Arashi’s pop songs.

“There’s nothing special about Japanese music. I think the melody of pop songs around the world is same. But even if I’m Korean, I can relate to the song lyrics and find something similar to Korean culture,” Park told The Korea Times.

Despite political tensions between Korea and Japan, it seems pop culture is helping bridge the gap between the two countries. Japanese fans have been gobbling up K-pop, Korean dramas and movies in the past few years, but recently Japanese pop groups like Arashi are becoming popular in Korea.

The Korea Foundation for International Cultural Exchange (KOFICE) would like to see more of this kind of pop cultural exchange among Koreans and the rest of Asia. This is the ultimate goal of the Asia Song Festival, now in its third year, which will be held at the southwestern city of Kwangju on Sept. 22.

Hong Kong singer Kelly Chen

This year, top Asian pop stars such as Arashi, Korea’s TVXQ and Buzz, Japan’s Koda Kumi and Hong Kong’s Kelly Chen are scheduled to perform at the Kwangju World Cup Stadium.

It might seem like just another pop concert but KOFICE is hoping music will be the bridge to bring Asian countries closer to one another.

“The Asia Song Festival is aiming for Asian cultural exchange and fostering a cultural community among Asian countries, especially in pop culture. The Asia Song Festival would also like to share Asian values between the Asian countries,’’ KOFICE executive director Ryoo Jae-ky told The Korea Times.

Ryoo noted the festival has gained the support of top Asian entertainment agencies that have sent their biggest stars to participate. “We want to see that in Asia, there are no boundaries in culture,’’ he said.

This year, the Asia Song Festival is shaping up to be the biggest ever, with 12 artists from nine countries. While the first two concerts attracted around 7,000 fans, this year’s event in Kwangju is expected to draw over 30,000 fans and attract TV audiences throughout Asia.

K-Pop group TVXQ

TVXQ, one of the most popular K-pop groups nowadays, will make its third appearance at the Asia Song Festival. Buzz, a Korean rock band, will also perform at the concert.

Japan will be represented by Arashi, now in the midst of their Asian concert tour, and best-selling female singer Koda Kumi. Other singers invited to perform at the festival include the Philippines’ Kitchie Nadal, China’s Sun Nan, Thailand’s Katreeya English, Vietnam’s Ho Quynh Huong, Singapore’s Tanya Chua and Taiwan’s Tank.

Ryoo said the artists for this year are not only popular, but also talented. Since the concert is a non-profit festival, there are no performance fees given to the artists.

The first Asia Song Festival, which was held in Seoul in 2004, featured Asian pop superstars such as BoA, Ayumi Hamasaki, Leon Lai and F4. The second festival was held in November 2005 in Busan to coincide with the hosting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Performers for the Busan concert included TVXQ, Jang Na-ra, Maki Goto, Alex Su, Cui Jian and Nanase Aikawa.

Sponsored by the Culture and Tourism Ministry, Kwangju city, and Korea Tourism Organization, the concert is free of charge but fans have to apply on the Web site (www.kofice.or.kr) to get tickets.

J-Pop group Arashi

Sustaining ‘Hallyu’

Hallyu or Korean Wave has allowed Korean dramas, music and films to attract audiences first in China and Japan, then Southeast Asia. There is no doubt Hallyu has raised the profile of Korea as a modern, stylish and hip center of pop culture in Asia.

But there has been some backlash against Korea’s growing dominance in pop culture. Ryoo said there should be an effort to prevent one-sided dissemination of culture and to allow more cultural exchanges between countries.

KOFICE, which was originally established as Asia Culture & Industry Exchange Foundation in 2003, is working for the development of popular culture in Asia and to expand cultural exchanges in the region.

As part of its activities, KOFICE also promotes the TV broadcasting of Asian documentaries and dramas in Korea. Ryoo said in this way, there will be improved understanding of contemporary culture among Asian countries, which may be near geographically but culturally distant.

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Source: The Korea Times