Monday, August 19, 2013

What's next for the Korean Wave?

By JONATHAN HICAP, Manila Bulletin
In the last few years, the Korean Wave, or Hallyu, has spread in many countries.
From Asia, Hallyu has found its way to other regions like in Latin America, North America and Middle East.
Hallyu stars (clockwise from top left) Super Junior, Choi Ji-woo and Bae Yong-joon in 'Winter Sonata,' Big Bang and Lee Young Ae in 'Jewel in the Palace' (Photos by

In celebration of its 10th anniversary, Korean TV channel KBS recently aired a three-part program on "The Great Transformation of the Korean Wave," which delved into the rise of Korean Wave in many countries.
From the rise in popularity of Korean TV dramas in the 1990s and early 2000 to the spread of K-pop to other countries in the last five years, Hallyu has found its own market in different regions.
In the Philippines, Korean dramas dubbed in Filipino are aired on TV channels like ABS-CBN and GMA. Since 2009, K-pop concerts and events have been held in the Philippines.
In the KBS program, industrial designer Kim Yeongse of Innodesign said he remembers writing the lyrics of Beatles songs in Korean several decades ago.
"Now, foreigners are doing that with Korean songs. I think Koreans have that spirit and love of entertainment. We have a culture that sings, that stirs, that shakes, that soars, that sweeps, and most of all, that has soul. That emotional element of Koreans is being carried across the world," he said.
Prof. Ko Jeongmin of Hongik University Business School said, "Korean content has improved over the years. We used to listen to a lot of pop music. Now we listen to K-pop music. Our movies are being exported overseas as well as our TV shows. Hallyu has grown enormously. We can look at the export figures. Our export rate grew 22.5 percent since 2008. In the past, we imported most of our culture. But in 2008, our exports surpassed imports."
Hallyu not only includes Korean dramas and  K-pop music but also animation, food and health services.
Panelist Ryu Jaehyeon, culture planning expert, said hallyu spread around the world because of South Korea's open door policy in 1987.
"In the 1990s, we saw the development of the PC and the internet. Hallyu spread quickly, thanks to the spread of IT and transportation."
Yeongse added, "The digital revolution changed everything. Our creativity is now being globalized."
K-pop's popularity can be attributed to the use of the internet especially sites like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
But what is the real Hallyu?
Jeongmin said Hallyu is about pop or traditional culture.
"Hallyu is enjoyed in a variety of ways. Exporting Korean electronics is Hallyu. When Park Ji-sung does well in soccer, it's Hallyu. I think we need a real definition. I guess we can describe it as Hallyu when Korean products do well overseas but Hallyu in the strict sense has to be about pop or traditional culture. This includes K-pop, drama, animation and elements like food, hanok, and hangeul for traditional culture," he said.
But other industries including cosmetic surgery and tourism can also be considered as part of Hallyu.  
"We can go further and include the derivative industries that came out of this pop and traditional culture. For example, tourism and cosmetic surgery are both popular. Tourists come asking to look like Korean celebrities. Surgery, cosmetics and fashion can also be included in the realm of Hallyu," he said.
Korean language and Korean study centers around the world has totaled 884 including 564 in Asia, according to the KBS program.
In the country, the Korean Cultural Center in the Philippines holds Korean language classes.
But the spread of Hallyu also has backlash, according to the panelists. In Japan, for example, there is an anti-Korean sentiment because of the political conflict between the two countries brought about by issues like the group of islets called Liancourt Rocks, otherwise known as Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan.
The KBS programs hosts asked the panelists what should Korea do nowadays when interest in Korea is so high.
Prof. Kim Jintaek of Pohang University of Science and Technology said Korea should respect the cultures of other countries and avoid prevent discrimination against migrant laborers and multicultural families.
"Now, a person is judged by his character. He is judged on how kind and understanding he is of others, and how well he communicates his ideas to make a better society. Likewise, countries have character. We're talking about Hallyu right now. We're talking about exporting our content. And we import a lot of culture as well. What's important is that we share culture. We have to keep these cultures equal. We have to respect the differences," he said.  
He added, "We can't just tell people to appreciate our culture when in reality, Koreans can discriminate against migrant laborers or multi-racial families. There is definitely that kind of prejudice that is pervasive in our society. We shouldn't take up sides like that. I believe they make up an important pillar of our economy. They provide us with important labor. There has to be a good social system in place."
Yeongse said the Korean people are the key in raising the country's national character.
"I think that lies with the people. I think our strength  lies in our people. What China has in numbers, we have in quality. Koreans are a creative people," he said.
In the TV program, Kubo Hayato, editor of Nikkan Sports, who has followed the Hallyu phenomenon in Japan since 2003, says Hallyu will stay strong, regardless of the current political situation.
"Japan's current mood and what the Japanese thinks of Korean content is not the complete picture. I think Hallyu has become very mainstream in our society," he said.
The KBS program said Hallyu is helping to ease the political conflict between Korea and Japan.
Jeongmin said Hallyu can ease political conflicts and suggested that Korea should localize Hallyu content and make it universal.
"I think anti-Hallyu might be a problem. When Hallyu goes abroad, there might be a backlash. That's because culture has to do with a country's identity so people are sensitive. They might think Hallyu is out to replace their own culture and identity. We export our content overseas but we should also import foreign contents. But do you watch movies that were made by Third World countries? We have to be receptive of those minority cultures as well. We haven't thought of that. We've only tried to think of profiting from this, not about respecting others," he said.
He said, "It's time for bilateral exchange. Hallyu can ease tensions between countries when there is diplomatic or political conflict. There's anti-Hallyu sentiment in Japan and politically, the situation looks bad. But Hallyu can help to ease that. Japanese women love Korean bands and celebrities and Korea. That can stop the anti-Hallyu movement. We can localize our content when we export it to overseas markets or customize it according to their needs. That's how we can allow Hallyu to develop in those local cultures. We're surrounded by Hollywood and Japanese culture but we don't know it. Likewise, Hallyu has to be universal. It has to be accepted as part of their everyday lives.
Link to my original article on Manila Bulletin online:

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