Books and magazines slamming South Korea are flying from the shelves of bookstores, and while some involved are happy with soaring sales, others in the industry worry about the trend.
One publication that cashed in was Takarajima, a monthly magazine, which ran a feature story ridiculing South Korea in its year-end edition in 2013.
“We sold more copies than normal,” said Toru Miyagawa, editor-in-chief. In fact, the edition sold 30 percent more than usual.
Titled “The reality of South Korea: hated worldwide and obsessed with anti-Japan sentiment,” the edition portrayed South Korea as a nation founded on nothing but anti-Japanese resentment.
“We suddenly realized that people wish to read such stories,” said Miyagawa. His magazine has focused on South Korea ever since.
While weekly magazines have for some time run sensationalist stories about Japanese attitudes toward South Korea and China, Takarajima has “no intention of fueling the trend,” Miyagawa, 43, said.
Nonetheless, Takarajima is known for covering subjects considered taboo and it believes the sales speak for themselves. One edition sold 60 percent more copies year on year.
“Readership among those in their 50s and 60s has increased sharply,” Miyagawa said.
“Hatred of South Korea and China is not our magazine’s main characteristic,” he added. “Undeniably, there are readers. But I don’t think the trend will continue for a long time and I’m afraid there will be some kind of swingback.”
In bookstores, too, publications criticizing or ridiculing South Korea are widely displayed in nonfiction and current-affairs sections.
“The trend isn’t healthy but there is no other choice because they sell well,” said a salesclerk at a large bookstore in a business district in Tokyo. The clerk declined to be named.
A worker at another bookstore said, “We place (anti-South Korea) books in prominent sections as they are in strong demand. We cannot hide them away because we would strip people of a forum for freedom of opinion if we do so.”
At least one publisher is urging cooler heads to prevail. Kawade Shobo Shinsha sent a fax to bookstores across Japan in mid-May proposing in-store fairs promoting objective publications about social issues, such as patriotism. The titles include some by Kawade, but a number from other publishers as well. Around 100 bookstores have agreed to hold the fairs.
The event is not aimed at countering anti-South Korea and anti-China books “with more hatred,” a Kawade official said. “We would like to show that there is a variety of values and facts.”
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.