Wednesday, January 4, 2006


HatTip to Grace. NY Times article that's a few years late, but that's expected with mainstream media.

The cultural influence and flow into China and other Asian nations started a few years back with Korea's music scene and expanded to TV and film. Another point of influence is technology. Chinese firms and government entities hungry for technology and business knowledge seek out Korean firms, and Korean companies have flooded into China for years now. Also because of a common history against Japan and distaste for many things Japanese, Korea has almost become a default development partner in Asia. I assume the growing bonds between South Korea and China will continue along these lines of business and culture.

At Korea City, on the top floor of the Xidan Shopping Center, a warren of tiny shops sell hip-hop clothes, movies, music, cosmetics and other offerings in the South Korean style.

To young Chinese shoppers, it seemed not to matter that some of the products, like New York Yankees caps or Japan's Astro Boy dolls, clearly have little to do with South Korea. Or that most items originated, in fact, in Chinese factories.

"We know that the products at Korea City are made in China," said Wang Ying, 28, who works for the local branch of an American company. "But to many young people, 'Korea' stands for fashionable or stylish. So they copy the Korean style."

From clothes to hairstyle, music to television dramas, South Korea has been defining the tastes of many Chinese and other Asians for the past half decade. As part of what the Chinese call the Korean Wave of pop culture, a television drama about a royal cook, "The Jewel in the Palace," is garnering record ratings throughout Asia, and Rain, a 23-year-old singer from Seoul, drew more than 40,000 fans to a sold-out concert at a sports stadium here in October.

But South Korea's "soft power" also extends to the material and spiritual spheres. Samsung's cellphones and televisions are symbols of a coveted consumerism for many Chinese. Christianity, in the evangelical form championed by Korean missionaries deployed throughout China, is finding Chinese converts despite Beijing's efforts to rein in the spread of the religion. South Korea acts as a filter for Western values, experts say, making them more palatable to Chinese and other Asians.

For a country that has been influenced by other cultures, especially China but also Japan and America, South Korea finds itself at a turning point in its new role as exporter.
(full article in China Daily with no login)

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