Since BTS became popular in the international music world, K-Pop became a well-known term. But not only Korean popular music is in demand worldwide. Everything Korean is becoming more and more popular, may it be K-Pop, K-Drama, K-Food, or K-Beauty. In this blog, we will give a short overview of the phenomenon that’s called Hallyu (kor.: 한류) or Korean Wave.
A prominent example of the spread of Korean culture worldwide is the update of the Oxford English Dictionary, which added 26 words with Korean origins in 2021. Among them are many words for Korean dishes, but also expressions made famous by K-dramas, such as Daebak (kor.: 대박) (“an interjection expressing enthusiastic approval used in a similar way to ‘fantastic!’ and ‘amazing!'”) or words widely used by the K-pop scene, such as Aegyo (kor.: 애교) (“a certain kind of cuteness or charm considered characteristically Korean”).
In this blog, let me give you a short overview of the history of Korean media to better understand where our favorite movies, dramas, and music came from.
The development of the South Korean media landscape did not begin until after 1945, the end of Japanese colonial rule. While there was a ban on the production of Korean films under the Japanese occupation, even after 1945, most media were heavily censored and monitored by the new Korean government. Only since 1980 has there been a relaxation of the censoring in South Korea, and the import of foreign media was allowed.
Between 1975 and 1984, an average of only 33 foreign (primarily Hollywood) films were imported into Korea per year. From the late 1980s, the import of Hollywood films was increasingly permitted, so that on average 338 films were imported annually between 1989 and 1996, this led to the fear of many Koreans of “American cultural imperialism”. It was not until 1998 that the ban on the import of Japanese popular culture, which had been in force since the liberation of the Japanese colonial government in 1945, was gradually lifted.
The fear that Korean popular culture would lose importance as a result of opening up to foreign media was not confirmed. An unexpectedly large export flow of Korean popular culture began around 2000. At first, this included mainly Korean films and series and was promoted by the media under the name of Hallyu (kor.: 한류) – Korean wave. In addition to Korean films and media, Korean popular music (also known as K-pop) was increasingly exported. Initially, this development was limited to East Asia, but now the influence of Korean culture is felt worldwide.
The term Hallyu 2.0 no longer refers only to the export of Korean media but also to the marketing of Korean products, especially from Samsung and Hyundai. Korean beauty products and food are now also in demand worldwide.