South Korean youth shifts attitude towards Japan

STORY: “This is Tanaka, the most popular Japanese character in South Korea these days."

Location: Seoul, South Korea

South Korean comedian Kim Kyung-wook's career took a turn when he became Tanaka.

The charismatic Japanese bar host character from the early 2000s masters both old Japanese and K-pop songs and has since become one of South Korea's hottest YouTube stars and entertainers.

'Tanaka's mukbang, today I will try fish-shaped bun'

Kim exemplifies the changing attitudes of Koreans as ties with Japan thaw.

“For young people like us, we don’t think about reasons to be friends. We just become friends."

Unlike previous generations, a growing number of young South Koreans are coming to see Japan as more of a friend than a foe that colonized the country 70 years ago.

One of them is 24-year-old office worker Jeong Se-ah.

(Jeong Se-ah, Office worker)

"There was a social atmosphere that sort of encouraged the boycotting of Japanese culture, so I was reluctant to talk about Japan. However, after Tanaka's debut on YouTube, the atmosphere is more relaxed."

With more than 800,000 subscribers on YouTube and sold-out concerts throughout the country, today's fervor for Tanaka is very different from the response to his 2018 debut.

Back then, spats over shared wartime history were flaring between Seoul and Tokyo, spilling over into trade disputes.

Fast forward to today...the quarrels are being left behind.

And while some Korean victims of Japanese colonial rule continue to demand an apology and compensation from Tokyo, officials say attitudes are changing.

Political dynamics are spurring the young to take a less antagonistic view of Japan.

(Choi In-Bo, Tanaka fan)

“I have enjoyed Japanese culture since I was young. I hope people aren't so narrow-minded about Japan, and hope it can be an opportunity to unite.”