Last year, hundreds of critics protested outside a television studio in Tokyo against the airing of a Japanese television series featuring Korean actress Kim Tae-hee. After news circulated that Kim had worn a T-shirt promoting Dokdo (the Korean name for the disputed islands, called Takeshima in Japanese) in Switzerland six years ago, Japanese protestors took to the streets demanding that the broadcast company ban the series from airing. Protestors shouted, “Kim Taehee who does not like Japan, do not try to make money here,” and threatened the broadcasting company by announcing, “We will remember the Japanese company that supports anti-Japan actress Kim Taehee.” An advertising campaign promoting a Japanese cosmetics product featuring Kim as its model was also revised to significantly reduce her portion of the commercial after facing similar protests. It later became known that the actress even received death threats from perpetrators who were arrested by police in Osaka earlier this year.
Considering the extent of protests against the inclusion of a Korean actress in a Japanese television series filmed completely in Japan and featuring a nearly entirely Japanese cast, similar outrage over completely Korean television series have unsurprisingly been worse. Although the Japanese television series featuring Kim eventually aired amidst continued controversy, a Korean TV drama slated to air in Japan was completely banned from being broadcast after it became known that the lead actor (Song Ilgook) visited the disputed islands. In a rare official statement addressing a specific individual, Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Yamaguchi Tsuyoshi remarked, “it will not be easy for him [Song Ilgook] to come to Japan from now on.” In the aftermath of worsened territorial disputes between Japan and Korea and in the months leading up to the Japanese general election, even Abe Akie—the wife of likely Prime Minister-to-be Abe Shinzo and once an avid fan of Korean entertainment—changed her mind. Long known for her friendly stance on Korea and love of Korean entertainment media, Abe recently told reporters that she no longer watches Korean television shows and completely stopped learning Korean.
Although tensions between Japan and Korea regarding historical and territorial issues have continued for years, the spillover to entertainment media is a relatively recent phenomenon. It will be interesting to see how things will play out once (or if) ex-PM Abe Shinzo takes the seat again after the General Elections in two days alongside his ex-K-drama fan wife.