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Follow up on Gerry’s Japan focus post

October 6th, 2007 . by Matt

Gerry posted about a Japan Focus article about Kenkanryu – “The Hate Korea Wave”.

Besides the hysterical spin, there are some glaring inaccuracies in the article.

Quotes from the article –

The internet has become an increasingly influential medium throughout East Asia. In this article we examine the case of Kenkanryu (‘”Hating ‘The Korean Wave’”), a manga published in 2005 in hard copy, but available online as a web comic for many months prior to print publication.

Ah, no, it does not mean “Hating ‘The Korean Wave’”. Kenkanryu actually has nothing to with the Korean Wave, and certainly nothing to do with hating it. As I explain here, “Kenkanryu” is a play on words and it means “The Hate Korea Wave”, as in a wave of hating Korea. It is saddening to see that one of the authors of the article is called “Rumi Sakamoto”, a Japanese name, which indicates to me that the Japanese education system is in such a poor state that things simply explained in a comic go misunderstood by Japanese natives. Although I am but a humble foreigner, I would like to offer to instruct her on the subtleties of the Japanese language.

Of course, they have a reason for saying that it means “Hating ‘The Korean Wave’” – it is the color and font style of the character 嫌. So rather than reading the content of the manga and using common sense for interpreting the meaning of the title, we have a bizarre interpretation of colors and font style.

[1] The title means “Hating ‘The Korean Wave’” rather than ‘The Hating Korea Wave’, as indicated by the different color and font used for the letter ‘ken’, or ‘hate’).

Ironically, the authors of the article make the same elementary mistake concerning Kenkanryu as was made by the Korean media. Japanese wikipedia makes the meaning of “Kenkanryu” clear


Translation: Furthermore, in Korea Kenkanryu is mistaken to be “Ken Kanryu” (hating the Korean wave), a book expressing antipathy towards the so called “Korean wave”. The subject matter is “Kenkan ryu” (the hate Korea wave).

Here is the relevant text explaining the meaning of “Kenkanryu”. It is on page 271.

explaining kenkanryu

The text says 現在マスコミでは「韓流」などと友好を演出しているが、水面下では韓国を嫌う日本人が急増している。マスコミが隠しているもう一つの韓流、それが・・・・・・「嫌韓流」だ!!

The translation: Nowadays the massmedia is promoting ‘the Korean wave’ and the like for friendship, but behind that Japanese people that dislike Korea are growing in numbers. There is one more ‘Korean wave’ that the massmedia is hiding, that is… ‘the hate Korea wave’!!

It is a pun on the Korean Wave, but that is it. It is just trying to warn of anti-Korean sentiments being created by anti-Japanese activism in South Korea.

Although it is unrelated to the content of the “The Hate Korea Wave”, the authors even manage to spin a classic conspiracy theory of the guys in black trucks really being in charge of Japan through their “close ties” with politicians, media and academia.

Though representing voices of a minority, these new-wave nationalists are strident, their messages amplified (often literally by loudspeakers on trucks!) through close ties with dominant conservative groups within the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party, as well as within media and academia.

In the meantime, the authors spend their time trying to stigmatize Kenkanryu as reflective of nationalism among Japanese youth. “Nationalism” and its variants, “nationalistic” and “nationalist” are peppered throughout the article, appearing 54 times, and is in fact the the dominant word of the text as the only words beating it are “Kenkanyu” (the subject of the article), “Japan(ese)”, “Korea(n)”, and “media”. Just in case you miss the point the authors are pushing, the authors assure us that nationalist sentiment among Japanese people is “toxic”.

This essay looks at Kenkanryu, an anti-Korean comic book published in 2005 to address the two factors that contribute to the new toxic nationalism: the construction of the enemy figure and the popularity of this manga. The first section analyses the ideological structure of the manga itself, focusing on its representations of Korea and Koreans as Japan’s Other. The second section looks at the process by which Kenkanryu became a bestseller.

Indeed. Of course, they have chosen to justify their claim of “toxic nationalism” by providing some links to newspaper articles.

There is no doubt that Kenkanryu is a parochial, ‘toxic’ nationalistic and anti-Korean work, as has been reported in a number of English-language media.[6]

Yes, so because someone somewhere said it, it must be true, to be endlessly repeated in the echo chamber of incestuous amplification by like minded individuals.

The authors continue to assert that Kenkanryu is a backlash against the Korean wave.

Secondly and more immediately, Kenkanryu appeared partly as a backlash against the hype of the ’Korean Wave’ (hanryu) that Japan was, and in fact still is, going through.

This is incorrect. Kenkanryu does not attack the Korean wave, rather Kenkanryu owes its existence to the Korean wave, for as interest in Korea grew, people began to find out about the negative aspects of Korea, in particular the anti-Japanese sentiment that is prevalent in South Korea. Kenkanryu is a backlash – but it is a backlash against anti-Japanese sentiment in South Korea, not against the Korean wave. The failure of the authors to put this in its appropriate context is unforgivable.

How can so called scholars write about controversial subject matter when they cannot even get some basic facts right, like the meaning of the title of a manga? If an average Joe from Sydney can punch holes into the arguments of people that are supposed to be academics specialising in Japan, you know there is a big problem. There are two authors of the article, one Matt Allen (who by his name I suppose is non-Japanese), and Rumi Sakamoto, who sounds Japanese to me. Matt Allen I am more forgiving of, because people say and write stupid things about other people and cultures all the time, owing to their limited perceptions, language abilities, and contact with the natives. Sakamoto Rumi on the other hand should know better. Shame on you.

Articles on Occidentalism about Kenkanryu –

Initial review of Kenkanryu
Kenkanryu in the New York Times
A ‘final’ word on Kenkanryu
A full copy of Kenkanryu, translated into Korean

103 Responses to “Follow up on Gerry’s Japan focus post”

  1. comment number 1 by: Mikkel

    Just stumble on ur site. My comment is a bit late. I heared about the anti-haryu comic book through a korean friend. I am living in germany right now and germany is heavily influenced by american pop-culture. 99% of the movies and over 70% TV-series are us-made. Stil germans never came up with an idea of a book/comic book to illustrate americans in an unfavorable way. The same goes for China/HK/Vietnam/TW/Malay… where the haryu wave exists, even stronger than in Japan. But none of this countries published such craps.
    The success of the haryu wave is due to the professionalism in promoting star culture by the Koreans. And this has nothing to do with what Japan did in Korea in the past.
    If Japan want to argue this way, one can also say that the success of JPs Manga/pop culture is just a result of the immense aid from US. Without the US., there will be no Manga/Anime/cinema or any culture/industries in Japan.
    I dont like the haryu wave, but this comic book does have a racist taste in it.

  2. comment number 2 by: Matt

    Mikkel, this comic book has nothing to do with the Korean Wave, which is the whole point of my post. The book does not criticise the Korean Wave.

  3. comment number 3 by: Ken

    “Japanese are Korean are Chinese are Mongolian.”

    Westerners often call Asians with lumping together Mongolian, by whom Eupore had been nearly conqured.
    But there is obvious difference by race in Y-chromosome of so-called Mongoloid as following site.


    Koreans had been accupied and massacred by Chinese dynasties many times so that they are similar to the Chinese.