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K-Pop stars big in Japan may help to bridge a wide diplomatic divide

TOKYO -- Thousands of K-Pop fans flocked to a major concert by top South Korean music stars in Japan this week, with organizers and fans alike calling it a “bridge” for two nations locked in a never-ending diplomatic squabble.

The K-Pop juggernaut has been spreading around the world with South Korean music, television and movies making a big splash in countries with few ties to Seoul.

But the country's offerings are particularly loved across the sea in Japan whose own unique culture has long been a hit with South Koreans, despite historical animosities and territorial disputes.

That mutual love was on display in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, on Wednesday as a slate of acts including Supernova, teenage girl band sensation Crayon Pop and crooning boy band 2PM performed for screaming Japanese fans, including young girls and some middle-aged men.

Kurumi Hagi, a 17-year-old fan of 2PM, was among the 9,600 capacity crowd packed into the concert put on by popular South Korean music television show M Countdown.

“When I feel tired, I just need to see them to feel lively again,” Hagi said. “Their performance gives me energy.”

Another huge fan of the six-boy band is Hagi's mother, who landed a backstage pass, while 40-year-old Kan Yokoyama can't get enough of the group Girl's Day.

“I am totally hooked by Girl's Day,” he said. “I met them at one recent fan meeting, and (band member) Hyeri showed me how to dance. She was so sweet, and I've been huge fan of her ever since.”

The event was held as relations between Tokyo and Seoul are at their worst level in years, mired in emotive disputes linked to Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule, particularly Japan's use of South Korean “comfort women” as sex slaves in wartime brothels.

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