January 4, 2006
Written by C.N.
The New York Times reports that as China continues to modernize and forge its own path toward being an economic (and political) international superpower, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, much of its youth culture is actually influenced by South Korea:
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.
The article goes on to describe that American culture still has strong influences in China as well, but many Chinese still see American society as too foreign or far-removed from their own lives. In that sense, South Korean culture is more akin to Chinese culture and therefore its influences is more easily integrated into the lives of many Chinese.
The article also notes that as a reflection of China’s continuing tensions with Japan, most forms of Japanese culture are not as easily accepted and in fact, are frowned upon because of the ongoing unease that many Chinese have with Japan, resulting from its legacy of injustice and cruelty during World War II.
As a reflection of the idealistic goal of promoting a pan-Asian American identity in the U.S., I think it is a positive development that China is being influenced by other Asian cultures, in this case, South Korea. Perhaps this is a sign that Asian countries are becoming more open to influences from their Asian neighbors.
However, we should note that this is not always the case. As I posted earlier, this trend apparently isn’t valid inside Japan, where conservatives and nationalists are increasingly speaking out against various forms of Chinese and Korean culture. It is indeed sad to see that for various reasons, Japan is apparently set on further isolating itself and alienating its Asian neighbors even though it is Japan and Japanese society that is largely at fault for these tensions.
The other potential implication that I see arising from this trend toward more pan-Asian cultural influence is from the U.S. That is, will Americans see this trend toward more pan-Asian cultural integration as a sign that Asian countries are “uniting,” with the further implication being that once united, that Asian countries will “gang up” on the U.S. and become a more prominent threat, culturally, politically, economically, or even militarily?
That sounds like a rather implausible and far-fetched scenario, but at times like this where all non-Americans are seen as potential enemies by the current administration, I would not be surprised to see the U.S. move in that direction. More drastic changes in American policy have already taken place.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "South Korean Culture Influence in China" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2006/01/south-korean-culture-influence-in-china/> ().
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