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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #193: February 16, 2004

Sumo returns to Seoul

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Sumo returns to Seoul"
(Charles Scanlon) BBC


The article reports that sumo tournament was performed for the first time after WWII in Seoul, Korea, and was received well among the Korean spectators.

Sumo, dubbed as Japanese wrestling, is a match between two wrestlers where in a bout would try to either have a part of opponent's body touch the ground, or force the opponent out of the ring of 4.5 meters in diameter framed by dirt-packed straw bales imbedded in the ground. To many naive Westerners, the scant costume, called mawashi may seem a bit unusual, but the speed and scope of the sport have attracted many fans of foreign origin.

Korean government, perhaps out of political objective to maintain hatred among its people toward Japan, for a long time has lead and promoted policies to scorn Japan and whatever related to it. Probably the most effective have been the policy built into the education system, where beginning from very elementary levels children are taught, before they could acquire abilities to judge for themselves, of the "evil" Japanese. And in order not to let that hatred fade among grown-ups, Korean government has banned its people from being exposed to certain information from abroad, among which the most notable being cultural output of Japan, whether or not intended for Korean people at all.

Nevertheless, there has been a gradual trend of liberalization. At the beginning of this year, the Korean government, in the fourth installment, further liberalized imports, sales, and broadcasting of cultural materials produced in Japan, or expressed in Japanese.

The first relaxation was in 1998, when only those Japanese movies participated in four major film festivals (Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Academy), making the total of about ten films a year, were allowed to be shown on Korean screens.

The second occasion was in 1999, when most of the movies, except anime were liberalized, and ban on performances of Japanese music in facilities of less than 2,000 audiences were lifted. But broadcasting or sales of recordings of music in the form of CDs or videos were still banned. Then the third wave of liberalization took effect in 2000, when all movies, except "R rated", were freed, and recordings of Japanese songs could be sold "if the verse is NOT in Japanese."

The fourth installment last month has lifted most of the ban, with the exception of videos (Tapes and DVDs) of those programs not publicized already in other forms in Korea.

Considering the fact that during these years, hundreds of thousands of people traveled between Japan and Korea, carrying with them legitimate and illegal copies of Japanese music, and also the advent of internet and the fact that Japan's satellite TV could be watched in Korea, the pace of liberalization could be considered impractically slow. Some have provided explanations that the government has had to play it to look reluctant to liberalize so as not to be accused by reactionary forces.

This was the atmosphere in which sumo tournament was performed. In fact, many had seriously feared that the tournament would be a failure due to fierce protest by Korean people, or even demonstration against sumo for being considered as typical Japanese culture, which has been taught for a long time as a subject to condemn.

Cultural exchange among ordinary people is one of the most effective ways to understand other countries. Korean people to appreciate Japanese culture without bias should induce Japanese to vise-versa, which could create a productive spiral, as both countries are rich in cultural heritage, and that could lead to even further cooperation between the countries for the sake of both people.

Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications