Publications disparaging S. Korea, China hot sellers in Japan

February 12, 2014

By MAYUMI MORI/ Staff Writer

Books and periodicals highly critical of China and South Korea are flying off bookstore shelves, prompting leading publishing companies to jump on the bandwagon to take advantage of the trend.

On a recent day at Sanseido Bookstore Ltd.'s outlet in Tokyo's Jinbocho district, an area close to the first floor cash registers featured a display of such books.

"Do you still want to get along with such a nation?" read the blurb on one of the book jackets.

"There is not a single thing we can learn from that nation!" declared another.

"Why is that race so self-centered?" asked a third.

According to store officials, books praising Japan, along with those disparaging China and South Korea, began selling well from last autumn.

"We set up a special corner because such books began taking up a large percentage of this outlet's sales," a bookstore official said.

Sanseido is not the only bookstore that has set up such corners. Books that spell out a hatred of China and South Korea have become a genre in the publishing industry.

In only the second month of the year, three such titles have already appeared in the weekly top 10 list for softcover nonfiction works compiled by Tohan Corp., which serves as a distributor between publishing companies and bookstores. In the same period last year, not a single such title cracked the top 10.

"Bokanron" has been in the top 10 for seven consecutive weeks. The book is highly critical of various aspects of South Korea.

An official with Sankei Shimbun Shuppan Co., which published the work, said, "Sales have vastly exceeded our expectations."

Readers have sent in comments saying that after they read the book they understood why South Korea was so anti-Japanese.

The series "Manga Ken Kan Ryu" (Hating the Korean wave) has sold 1 million copies since first coming out in 2005. Plans call for releasing a new book in that series on Feb. 22.

"Because major media organizations have not taken up the bad aspects of South Korea, the books may have become a draw stemming from the dissatisfaction that has accumulated among the public," an official in charge of the series said.

A similar trend has extended toward weekly magazines.

Shukan Bunshun published 49 editions last year, and all but one had at least one article with headlines that included the words "China," "South Korea," "Senkaku" or "comfort women."

At Shukan Shincho, 37 of its 49 editions had headlines with those words, while at Shukan Post the figure was 38 out of 44 editions. At Shukan Gendai, it was 28 out of 46 editions.

Almost all of those articles were highly critical of the two nations or their leaders.

"We cannot stop because it sells," a reporter for a weekly magazine said. "Another factor behind the increase in such articles is that there is a very low risk of lawsuits, unlike scandals involving politicians, because all we are doing is introducing news from abroad."

Weekly magazines began running more articles on China since the autumn of 2010 when a Chinese trawler collided with two Japan Coast Guard cutters in waters off the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

Likewise, articles about South Korea became more prevalent after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak landed on Takeshima in 2012. South Korea refers to the small islands that are at the center of a territorial dispute as Dokdo.

But there has also been some changes in the editorial policies of some weeklies.

Shukan Gendai moved away from an anti-China and anti-South Korea stance in late January after getting a new editor in chief late last year.

"Are those people who have become enraptured by hatred for China and South Korea prepared to take up arms?" a recent article asked.

While some younger reporters at the weekly opposed the change in direction, one reporter said the decision was made because "we wanted to become a useful weekly magazine rather than just carry interesting articles."

There has been no decrease in sales, according to a magazine source.

"Shukan Gendai made a dramatic change in course, but we still do not know if that will become its long-term policy," said Hiroyuki Shinoda, editor in chief of media watchdog magazine Tsukuru. "This boom will not end as long as the magazines sell."

Yutaka Oishi, a professor of journalism studies at Keio University in Tokyo, said, "It is not only weekly magazines that have created this boom. At the root of the trend is the tendency of mass media to ignore news about ordinary exchanges while only reporting on the confrontations between Japan and South Korea and between Japan and China. There is a need to examine the overall reporting."

By MAYUMI MORI/ Staff Writer
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Along with books critical of China and South Korea, the shelves of Sanseido Bookstore's Jinbocho outlet also contain titles that reflect back on World War II. (Mayumi Mori)

Along with books critical of China and South Korea, the shelves of Sanseido Bookstore's Jinbocho outlet also contain titles that reflect back on World War II. (Mayumi Mori)

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  • Along with books critical of China and South Korea, the shelves of Sanseido Bookstore's Jinbocho outlet also contain titles that reflect back on World War II. (Mayumi Mori)

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