By Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press Writer
TOKYO (AP) -- Uneasy ties between neighbors Japan and
South Korea may be thawing -- if Japanese pop music charts are anything to go by.
A week after its release, an album by 15-year-old Korean
pop princess BoA conquered the Oricon Co. album ranking released to the media on Monday,
the first time an artist from South Korea has made it to the top of Japan's most
influential gauge of music stardom.
The label that released ''Listen to My Heart'' said
excitement about the soccer World Cup that will be hosted by Japan and South Korea in two
months time will give a further push to BoA's career here.
But for fans, it's style rather than sports that makes BoA
``BoA's great, she's a very good singer and dancer,'' said
Mayumi Sato, taking a break from her office job to check out BoA CD at a Tokyo record
store. ``She's so cute.''
Oricon's chief analyst said the BoA phenomenon is part of
a wider trend for young Japanese and Koreans to drop historical animosities caused by
Japan's wartime occupation of the Korea, and connect through things they can relate to
better: fashion, movies, and pop music.
``Their interest might have been triggered by the World
Cup, but young Japanese have become very open to Korea. They have little negative feeling
that still affects the older generation,'' said Katsuya Taruishi.
BoA's album has sold 231,000 CDs over the past week,
knocking Japanese soul diva Misia off the top spot, Oricon said.
Things Korean are becoming wildly popular throughout Asia.
TV melodramas like ''Autumn Story'' and silver screen thrillers like ''Joint Security
Area'' have become hits among young people from Singapore to Taiwan.
But the exchange of pop icons between Japan and South
Korea has deeper significance -- with hip-hop beats doing more to bridge cultural gaps
than decades of diplomacy.
Japan colonized Korea from 1910 until 1945, and animosity
runs deep. In South Korea, where Tokyo's imperial authorities tried to wipe out the
culture and language, it is only in 1998 that a ban on Japanese pop culture was lifted.
Since then, Japanese boy bands like SMAP -- Japan's answer
to the Backstreet Boys -- have been greeted with the same adulation in Seoul as they are
In Japan, Korean pop and dance music has become so popular
there are prominent ``K-pop'' sections in record stores. Korean movies and restaurants
have also become big hits.
But political issues threaten to unravel the goodwill
generated by stars like BoA and SMAP.
Anger exploded in South Korea last year over Tokyo's
approval of a history textbook penned by rightwing scholars and Prime Minister Junichiro
Koizumi's visit to a shrine that honors the nation's war dead, including convicted war
Those two issues caused Seoul to delay plans to further
lift restrictions on Japanese movies, cartoons and pop music.
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