Hallyu written in Hangeul as 한류 is a Chinese term which means “Korean Cultural Wave”. It is a collective term used to refer to the phenomenal growth of Korean culture and popular culture encompassing everything from music, movies, drama to online games and Korean cuisine. South Korea is one of the only countries in the world, that has a dedicated goal to become the world’s leading exporter of popular culture. It is a way for Korea to develop its “soft power”. Soft power is a popular term coined in 1990 by Harvard political scientist Joseph Nye. It refers to the intangible power a country wields through its image, rather than through hard force. Hard force refers to military power or economic power.
Hallyu first spread to China and Japan, later to Southeast Asia and several countries worldwide where it continues to have a strong impact. In 2000, a 50-year ban on the exchange of popular culture between Korea and Japan was partly lifted, which improved the surge of Korean popular culture among the Japanese.
Hallyu has been a blessing for Korea, its businesses, culture and country image. Since early 1999, Hallyu has become one of the biggest cultural phenomena across Asia.Over the last two decades, South Korea has become very rich and very futuristic. In 1965, Korea’s GDP per capita was less than that of Ghana. Today, South Korea is the world’s 12th largest economy.
The world’s eyes today were on Korea, and Korean culture soon gained a huge number of followers, making Korea a significant exporter of popular culture. Classic TV drama series such as “Autumn in my Heart” (가을동화) from 2000 and “Winter Sonata” (겨울연가) from 2002 are from the early generation of Korean dramas gaining a huge fan base overseas. Since then, Korea continued to make high-quality drama series centered around topics such as first love, historical characters, family, revenge, schools, and recently there has been an increase in medical dramas. Since explicit content such as kissing and bed scenes used to be a rare sight in Korean dramas, more conservative nations embraced them as a safe alternative to more explicit Western content. Historical dramas are also an excellent way for Korea to depict its rich culture. History (사극) as they are called in Korean, are extremely popular due to their captivating story lines, their beautiful hanbok costumes, and their fairytale-like universes with kings and queens. Among the many popular Korean historical dramas is “Love in the Moonlight” from 2016, which caused the popularity of young actor Park Bo-gum. Most recently, Korean reality shows such as “Running Man”, “We got Married” and “Dangerous beyond the Blanket” have also attracted a lot of foreign interest.
Korean Pop Music
With the interest for Korean entertainment, Korean music has also increased around the world, and even though few are able to sing along, Korean singer Psy has become a household name with his “Gangnam Style”. Long before Psy conquered YouTube with more than 2 billion views, Korean pop artists such as Rain, Wondergirls, Big Bang, Girls Generation, and those recently artists like Wanna One, EXO, IU, BTS, Suzy, Blackpink, Twice and Heize are just a few of the endless list of names coming fresh from the construction belt of the Korean music production industry. Because of it’s popularity even western artist like Emma Stone love Kpop.
Beauty and Fashion
Korean entertainment follows the popularity of Korean cosmetics and fashion. Using popular stars in their commercials or by using those products on dramas today, cosmetics is the countries third biggest export next to electronics and cars. It is a surprise for everyone, even for Koreans themselves.
Before South Korea, France and the US were world leaders in the beauty industry. From L’Oreal, Chanel, Maybelline, MAC, Clinique, Lancôme to Estée Lauder. These are some of the global cosmetics brands famous all over the world that even South Korea is a big consumer of these products.
Just like Korean beauty, Korean food or cuisine is also gaining popularity all over the world. Western palates have been accustomed to (westernized) Chinese and Japanese food for quite some time, a lot of Korean restaurants are starting to bloom. The same holds for Korean snacks and beverages, particularly soju which can now be bought in most Asian markets around the worlds. Even the American grocery chain Whole Foods Market now reportedly has Kimchi in their stores.