The rising popularity of South Korea’s cultural influence (popularly known as the Hallyu or Korean wave) has literally swept across the globe. It can be said that it is now rooted firmly as an international phenomenon. It has grown in prominence to become a major driver of global culture, seen in everything from Korean dramas to Korean skincare regimens dominating the cosmetics industry to delicious Korean food on your favourite local menu.
By Okram Umadini
The Korean wave (K-wave) or Hallyu ( a Chinese term ) is a collective term that refers to the phenomenal growth of Korean culture causing a great sensation in the world with pop music, television dramas, movies, online games, Korean cuisine, beauty products, and fashion world just to name a few. Over the last decade, South Korea has emerged as a new centre for the production of transnational pop culture. There is no denying that the Korean wave has transformed the way in which we shape and view modern pop culture.
The wave first spread to China and Japan during the mid-1990s , later to Southeast Asia and several countries worldwide where it continues to have a strong impact. Since early 1999, Hallyu has become one of the biggest cultural phenomena across Asia.
The rise of the Korean wave is, in part, due to the development of social networking services and online video-sharing platforms. The use of social media in facilitating promotion, distribution, and consumption of various forms of Korean entertainment — especially K-pop has contributed to the surge in worldwide popularity since the mid-2000s. As of November 2020, the Korean wave is led by K-pop with its stand out acts such as BTS and Blackpink followed by K-dramas.
K-pop, short for Korean popular music is a genre of music that originated in South Korea as a part of Korean culture. It is gaining a widespread global audience. It is ranked at number six among the top ten music markets worldwide according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry’s “Global Music Report 2019” with BTS and Blackpink cited as artists leading the market growth. In 2020, K-pop experienced a record-breaking year when it experienced a 44.8% growth and positioned itself as the fastest-growing major market of the year.
The few reasons which make K-pop so uniquely popular are given below:
1. Creative use of costumes and Colours in music videos
2. Utilising strong storytelling
3. Unique, extravagant, and eye-popping personalities truly standing out from the crowd and taking self-expression to a new level
4. Fashion — Having a decidedly unique way of interpreting current trends
5. Catchy hooks and sing-along lyrics with addicting melodies that are instantly stuck in your head.
6. Choreography —- They not only sing and dance but also perform routines so complicated and challenging.
7. Diverse talent — A true k-pop idol is just as skilled as an actor as they are as a singer and a dancer.
8. Multilingual —- They often mix other cultures into their songs which makes the k-pop artists more accessible to fans in the western world.
The K-pop industry grows into a subculture that amassed enormous fandoms of teenagers and youth adults.
K-dramas (short for Korean dramas) are South Korean TV series in the Korean language. They often reflect the Korean culture which is popular worldwide and also offer subtitles in multiple languages. Some of them have a great impact on other countries. They have been adapted throughout the world. The rise in popularity of Korean dramas has led to a great boost to fashion line.
Some of the most popular K-dramas worldwide are:
My Love from Another Star (2013)
The Moon that Embraces the Sun (2012)
Sky Castle (2018)
Crash Landing On You (2019)
True Beauty (2020)
It’s okay to not be okay (2020)
The King: Eternal Monarch (2020)
The Korean film industry has emerged as an increasing global success and gain prominent international recognition in the last two decades. With the industry’s revival due to the Korean New Wave from the late 1990s to the present, it produced both of the country’s highest grossing films, The Admiral: Riding Currents (2014) and Extreme Job (2019).
Some of the most popular and award-winning cult classic movies include Pieta(2012), Parasite (2019), Oldboy (2003), Snowpiercer (2013), Train to Busan (2016), The Host (2006), A Taxi Driver (2017), etc.
Korean Fashion, Beauty and skincare products
South Korea is the hotbed of the fashion industry currently owing to a large number of upcoming designers and fashion houses that are establishing themselves. Korean designing is smart and creates fashion that appeals to the masses. It is known for its great branding and marketing. Pop culture lends a hand here, making sure that trending styles are constantly in the public eye.
Colourful fabrics, vibrant prints and pieces with a western influence are what makes Korean clothing brands and the local fashion a popular choice all around.
Korean skincare products have brought a massive transformation in the skincare and makeup industry. They constantly try to come up with new and exciting products and other countries are having a tough time keeping up with them. There are so many innovative products developed in South Korea.
High affordability, use of natural ingredients, extensive variety, focussing on healthy skin are some of the reasons why Korean skincare has become so popular across the globe.
Korean food has been expanding its presence around the world. Empowered by the growing popularity of Korean media contents such as K-pop, films, and dramas, along with years-long efforts from food companies, Korean cuisine is now rising as a new Asian taste in the global food scene.
Some of the famous Korean dishes include Kimchi, Kimbap, Bibimbap, Instant noodles, Soft tofu stew, Samgyeopsal and many more.
With Korean food’s authentic and healthy ingredients, the trend shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
The Korea wave has been a blessing for Korea, its businesses, culture, and country image. It is a force to be reckoned with. Over the last two decades, South Korea has become very rich and very futuristic. Today, South Korea is the world’s 12th largest economy.
(Okram Umadini is a final year student of MA Mass Communication, Manipur University)Global rise, Korean Culture