Don’t worry if you couldn’t understand what the title meant, it isn’t a reflection of your English vocab. Well, cause it isn’t English, to begin with. ‘Hallyu’, is a Chinese word which when translated means, ‘Korean Wave’. If you knew that already, you must be a K-Stan and this article isn’t going to be anything new to you.
In the recent past, there has been a sudden surge of interest in Korean Culture world over. Ranging all the way from K-dramas and movies to cuisine and skincare products, the Korean wave has transformed South Korea into one of the leading “soft powers” in the world. For those wondering, the term soft power, coined by Joseph Nye, refers to a country’s dominance and unembodied power that it wields solely by its image. This makes South Korea unique in focusing a large part of its effort towards growing this image rather than on ‘hard force’, i.e. military and economic power that most countries prioritize.
Hallyu saw its beginnings in the 1990s but mainly took off after the release of ”Shiri”, Korea’s first Hollywood style big-budget film. This was further propelled by several other dramas like “Winter Sonata” that maintained this newfound interest in the new Korean Film Industry. The movie “Parasite”, which recently won 4 academy awards and became the first non-English film to win the “Best Picture Award” is a testament to the quality and global impact of the Korean entertainment industry.
However, the entertainment industry wasn’t alone responsible for Korea’s rise to fame. Many other strategic moves made by the South Korean government including changes in censorship and travel laws, a renewed focus on the branding and globalization of Korean conglomerates like Samsung and LG, and increased investment in infrastructure developments transformed it from a “poor” country to what it is today, the world’s 12th largest economy.
The K-pop scene has also seen a massive boom in the last decades. Groups like BTS, Blackpink, EXO, Twice and Big Bang are just some of the several groups that gained massive fan bases world over and pushed South Korea into the limelight. There are just too many good groups to fit into this article and that’s a topic that deserves an article of its own!
The rise of Hallyu and an increase in Korea’s soft power brought with it, the pressure to maintain this image. This led to the advent of quite strict conventional beauty standards In South Korea that not only the native citizens feel the need to fit into but also creates unrealistic expectations in the minds of the audiences around the globe that consume the content. This not only affects viewers but also puts the idols under strict scrutiny and constant criticism leading to an overall deterioration in mental health as is evident in the increasing number of suicide cases among idols.
As we all know, everything brings along with it its own set of pros and cons. The Korean industry also has two sides to it and it’s for us to pick and choose what works not only for us but all the others who are involved in this industry. So, I’d recommend everybody to maybe check out some K-dramas, movies or music and if it works for you, well great then, you’ve just found another way to pass time and keep yourself occupied in this socially isolating period!