27 September, 2005

Hollywood Losing Influence in Japan

Bae Well known Hollywood stars have a secret they don’t want you to know about:

A Hollywood in-house secret, Japanese TV commercials were once talked about with a wink and a shake of the head. Piles of cash were paid to stars willing to peddle anything from whiskey to cigarettes, cars to coffee, instant noodles to cafe latte — as long as nobody told the fans back home. Hey, did you know Dennis Hopper did one for bath products? How much do you figure Leonardo DiCaprio got for that SUV spot? A million? Three?

However, these Hollywood stars are losing their popularity in Japan:

Sadly, the days of seeing, say, Harrison Ford guzzling Kirin beer may be over. American stars have not vanished from the Japanese advertising landscape, but their numbers have dropped dramatically since the heyday of the 1990s, when even Mickey Rourke was considered bankable here.

So who is taking the business from these Hollywood stars? Asian film stars are, led by the remarkable success of Korean film star Bae Yong-joon or otherwise known in Japan as Yon-soma:

“The Hollywood brand isn’t the best anymore, and Hollywood actors aren’t effective enough anymore,” said Yukio Mori, president of Systrat Corp., a marketing and promotion consultancy in Tokyo. “Consumers are in favor of singers or artists who are familiar, rather than foreign movie stars.”

The catalyst for the change, almost everyone agrees, has been Japan’s raging love affair with Korean culture that took everyone here by surprise two years ago.

The phenomenon was spearheaded by a drama series called “Winter Sonata,” a tragic love story featuring Bae Yong Joon, a South Korean actor affectionately referred to as Yon-sama in Japan. With his baby face and great teeth, Yon-sama, 33, flutters the hearts of Japanese women in their 30s and older, who tell market researchers he rekindles the romantic urges they felt in their youth.

It’s a demographic that makes marketers swoon, too. Yon-sama is now the biggest foreign star in Japan. Bigger than Brad. Bigger than Leo. Dozens of Japanese companies are desperate to attach their brand to Yon-sama, or at least to find the next great Korean star.

I don’t much care for Hollywood stars any more either, so I can’t blame the Japanese public getting turned off by them. Today’s Hollywood actors seem more concerned about promoting themselves and their politics than actually making good movies.  Anyone see Sean Penn show up in a boat in New Orleans with his personal photographer? 

Chinese film stars as well are having success advertising products in Japan including one of my personal favorites Zhang Ziyi:

And Asiance, a shampoo brand built on defining beauty with a pan-Asian look, has seen its market share grow after an ad campaign featuring China’s Zhang Ziyi, who starred in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

If I was trapped in New Orleans I would rather have Zhang Ziyi come to save me instead of Sean Penn.

by @ 7:45 pm. Filed under Culture, Japan, South Korea, China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Media

sex ed in seoul

Sexmusuem In a country filled with a thriving sex industry it comes as no surprise that Seoul now has it’s very own Erotic Art Museum:

Nestled behind the Hyundai Department Store next to Sinchon subway station, the Erotic Art Museum would be easy to miss save for a shiny golden replica of Michelangelo’s David outside that evokes both the elegance of some exhibits and the tawdriness of others.

The museum’s gregarious director, Won Myung-ku, did not stumble onto this calling by chance. A former worker in the tourist industry, he was blessed with the opportunity to do extensive traveling, during which time he came across and collected traditional craftworks dealing with sex from as far as Malaysia, Thailand and Africa. These experiences brought home to him how few such artifacts he had seen from his homeland.

“A culture of sex has been lacking in this country,’’ he said, “and I want to contribute to increasing the level of sex education among Koreans.’’

It is ironic that Mr. Won thinks Korea lacks a culture of sex when you are literally surrounded by the sex industry here. Just about every US military installation has clubs that offer prostitution right outside the main gates. Than there are multiple red light districts in every city here.  I have even been on the remote Korean island of Ullong-do and I was amazed to see a red light district on the island as well.  In addition to the clubs there are “barber shops”, massage parlors, and tea shops that offer their own sex services. 

The museum does offer some interesting historical perspectives on Korean customs towards sex during earlier Korean dynasties:

Elsewhere, there is a wide array of phalluses, used for everything from preventing disease to promoting fertility to fighting infidelity. Apparently, in Choson times it was believed that if women in the village were committing adultery, it was a sure-fire sign of too much “umgi,’’ the feminine form of “ki,’’ or the “life-force’’ which is central to much Eastern philosophy and medicine. The placement of a large wooden phallus in the village was considered the best way to deal with this problem.

They may need to put theses phalluses on every street corner in Korea now a days. 

by @ 6:53 pm. Filed under Culture, South Korea, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia

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