Korean culture invasion

Posted on August 15, 2012


Korean boy-band Super Junior performs in Vietnam.

If Vietnam is facing the ‘invasion’ of the Hallyu wave from South Korea on its media, Laos is also confronting the flood of music and movie tapes and disks from its neighboring country – Thailand.

“Music tapes and disks from Thailand are flooding Laos. Lao people do not understand this danger. Thai people ought to have protected their copyright but they have not to infiltrate our market. They attract Lao people to follow their culture. This is very dangerous but we don’t know how to deal with it,” said Mr. Xayxavat Singnamvong.

“Sharing a long border (around 2,000km), the customs and habit of Laos and Thailand are similar. They (Thailand) are equipped with modern techniques so their means of visual and audio entertainment highly develop. There are 5-6 Thai television channels in our country. Their culture not only appears in the border area but now in our bedrooms. We don’t know how to solve it and we would like to learn from you,” he added.

Mr. Bien said that Laos and Vietnam are small countries so they both face the threat of “cultural invasion.” The two countries should lean on each other. Though Vietnam still has difficulties in performing at management, Vietnam is willing to help Laos.

“Vietnam has recently integrated into the world so we are building new laws to run the country. To well manage a country, we need 600-700 bills. At present, we have a small number of bills and we need more time to compile them,” Mr. Bien said.

What does Vietnam learn from the Korean cultural invasion?

In an interview with VietNamNet, Mr. Bien admitted the threat of “cultural invasion” in the current situation. He said: “This is the common situation of small countries like Vietnam in the time of integration. Preserving cultural characteristics has become very important. Maintaining our culture is preserving the nation’s self-reliance.”

“Based on recent performing activities, we can see that Vietnamese youth have highly idolized foreign stars. We should balance the time for foreign movies and shows and for Vietnamese movies and arts on local television channels. The youth should firstly respect their country’s culture and are proud of their tradition. Integration and exchange is necessary but our culture must be highly respected,” Mr. Bien added.

Harmonizing tradition and the youth is difficult and how can Vietnam do it? Mr. Bien said: “I think that awareness and action must walk abreast. First of all, performing acts must be healthy; performing costume could not be ridiculous. Music works and movies must reflect tradition. Not all genres of traditional arts are attractive but we must seek ways to transmit them to the youth and make the youth think that traditional arts are interesting.”

“That’s the responsibility of artists. They have to prove to the youth that traditional arts are interesting and attractive. There are two aspects: in one side, we have to preserve the origin but on the other side, we have to keep it abreast with the time. Water puppetry, cai luong or tuong might be different 100 years ago, but to make them alive we have to seek new ways to transfer it to the society, particularly the youth.”

What can Vietnam learn from the Korean cultural invasion in Vietnam? Mr. Bien said: “Economic status of the Republic of Korea is much developed than Vietnam. They have big groups that sponsor cultural and performing activities. They invest in exporting culture. However, we are not inferior to them in terms of art development.”

One month ago, during a talk on culture in Hanoi, Mr. Oriza Hirata from Japan shared with Vietnamese scholars Japan’s experience. This country once concentrated on rebuilding the economy and neglected culture. Japan ranks third in the world for economic development but its cultural activities are equivalent to one fifth of France or other European countries.

He quoted an example: two Japanese cities – Furano and Ashibetsu in the 90s. Being invested with JPY10 billion to develop giant works and resorts but Ashibetsu could not draw tourists because of lacking cultural characters. Meanwhile, Furano, only 24km from Ashibetsu, which had only several fields of lavender left from the expansion of factories in the 80s, has become a popular destination.

According to the Japanese scholar, culture must be preserved from each village and commune. When each village becomes a center of the world, that’s wonderful. At that time, villagers will not have to look to big cities or capitals because they have their own squares and cultural centers. Cultural activities will make benefit after 100-200 years.

Mr. Oriza Hirata said that South Korean has learned experience from Japan when it focuses resources in culture, not only economic development. He advised Vietnam to not follow Japan.

Again, the story about cultural development of Korean people has returned, told by an insider, Prof. Bae Sang Soo, Dean of the Faculty of Vietnamese Language at Busan University of Foreign Studies and Secretary General of the Association of Vietnam-loving People in South Korea (VESAMA) on Tuoi Tre dated April 22, 2012.

“Approximately 20 years ago, we worried a lot about the potential effects of hip-hop music that came from Western countries on our teenagers, as they tried to compete with one another in getting hair dyed or decorated themselves with weird jewelry pieces or clothes. We held a lot of seminars regarding this topic in which many questions were raised: Do young people deny tradition? Do they imitate western cultures? Are youngsters no longer patriotic?

However, last of all we realized the reason the youth became “crazy fans” of western artists was partly that South Korean showbiz at that time was not fascinating enough to appeal to them. Hence, we developed the policies that helped encourage changes to this field.

Let me take an example from K-pop (the South Korean music industry) today. My generation and other older ones do not get accustomed to listening to this kind of music, simply because western experts have been hired to teach local musicians, who are also encouraged to study music abroad in order to find a new trend for the K-pop development.

The local musicians studying abroad are required to compose songs as a mixture of traditionalism and modernism. As I know, a number of South Korean musicians have hired foreigners to offer professional advice for their works to ensure that both locals and foreigners like them. Along with musicians, film producers, choreographers, singers, among others have made great efforts for changes. For these reasons, Hallyu is the result of the change efforts jointly by the government and showbiz artists…”

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Ho Huong Giang

Posted in: Culture