Korean Wave
An Introduction
Hilary Finchum-Sung
Korean Wave
Korean popular culture’s sudden popularity
outside of Korea’s borders
Asia: Taiwan, mainland China, Japan, Vietnam,
Philippines, Mongolia, India
Hallyu (Hanliu in Mandarin)
 term
coined by journalists to refer to
the sudden popularity of Korean
popular culture outside of Korea in
the form of:
Television dramas
 Popular Music
Potential Impacts of the Korean Wave
Domestic shifts in Korean identity and
building of a contemporary South Korean
global identity
Internationally—hallyu’s potential for
constructing an image of Korea from others’
Potential impacts
Benefits of hallyu to South Korea’s GDP and a
shifting export culture
Regional benefits as ‘globalization’ becomes
regionally focused and not depending on U.S. or
European imports
Potential impacts
Hallyu’s potential for reshaping and/or repairing
relationships with its neighbors
Hallyu represents a shift in power dynamics in
the region
Empowerment for South Korea after decades of
foreign occupation
A Step Back: Historical
Korean domestic perceptions shaped by:
Emphasis on 5,000 year history
Emphasis on cultural and historical autonomy
More than a century of foreign occupations
Essential ideas regarding Korean cultural values
and aesthetics
Colored by an East versus West perspective
Colored by constructed divisions between
‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ Korea
An ethnomusicological point of view
A consideration of changes in musical forms
and ideas over the past century helps us
understand the dramatic shifts in Korean
culture and how these shifts have laid the
groundwork for internationalization through
a phenomenon such as hallyu
Folk Music
Court Music
풍류/정악 [chǒng-ak] (elegant music)
Music of the elite
Learned by rote
Combination of Music of Chinese origins and
Korean characteristics
Typified as restrained in nature
Confucian Shrine
Royal Ancestral Shrine
Personal cultivation/pleasure
민속 음악 (minsok ǔmak)
Music of the common/everyday people
Learned by rote
Distinct regional characteristics
Typified as unrestrained and emotional in nature
Shaman Ceremonial
Buddhist Ceremonial
Work songs
Missionaries, Western Music, and
While importation of foreign musical
forms was not new in Korea, the
Importation of Western music coincided
with cultural upheaval marked by specific
events and sociocultural developments:
Annexation of peninsula by Japan
Japan’s 35-year occupation
Dissolution of former hierarchies and
social structures
Mass-mediated culture dissemination
through radio broadcasts and recordings
Divide between “Korean” and “Other”
20th – 21st Century Developments
Occupation, War, and Division of the peninsula left little room for
consideration of Korean identity, let alone cultural development. PostKorean War Industrialization led to a push toward modernization,
symbolically connected to Western culture (music, clothing,
 Preservation legislation—1962 brought attention back to traditional
culture and its worth in contemporary Korea
 Minjung Movement—1980s Korea; focus on indigenous modernity
and reaction against Western ‘cultural imperialism’ in Korea
 Olympics—highlighted Korean heritage and turned attention to the
worth of traditional music and culture
 Post-Olympic domestic development of film and dramas. Films such
as Seopyeonje (dir. Im Kwontaek) both celebrated Korean heritage
and questioned Korean nationalistic assumptions regarding Korean
identity and South Korea’s place in the world
 World Cup—2002, Japan and South Korea co-hosted the
international sports event, forcing a working relationship between the
old adversaries.
The Wave: Beginnings
Asian Financial (IMF) Crisis
Economic depression
New ways of doing business emerged: Internet ventures
Movement of capital, media, and culture discovered as potential route for growth
Limits on foreign entertainment imports
Increased competition among domestic producers of dramas
Higher production values
Heavy emphasis on beautiful scenery and people to increase competitiveness
Domestic censorship legislation helped shape the melodrama as classic Korean form
The dramas and OSTs (Original Sound Tracks) found an audience in
places like Taiwan and Mainland China where local productions were of
relatively low quality
Taiwan (former Japanese colony) a ‘cultural importer’ for decades
Pop covers of Korean songs in 1990s
CLON—400,000 albums sold
Powerful, masculine imagery (associate with a Korean national image)
Danceable rhythms—ushered in craze for Korean dance music
CLON perhaps the most successful group independent of drama popularity
Melodramas appealed to Taiwan audiences
Storylines connected to an ‘Asian’ identity—similarity in values and mores helped the
dramas to appeal to Taiwanese audiences
Glamorous and modern lifestyles spurred on an admiration for South Korea as a role
model in global era
OST compilations proved wildly popular
Few individual artists surpassed success of CLON
Live performances of Korean artists most popular in ‘compilation’ form—variety of
artists performing songs made popular in dramas
Mainland China
1997, “Star in My Heart”
Korean Pop
Ahn Jae Wook becomes star in China
OST from the drama sells thousands of copies
H.O.T., CLON, NRG music videos spread via satellite television
2002 World Cup inspired interest in both pop stars and dramas
‘cultural ordorlessness’ of musical groups (mixture of Korean
and English lyrics, English acronyms for group names, high
production values, emphasis on pan-Asian identity in marketing)
Backlash against “Korean cultural imperialism”
“Winter Sonata”
Primary audience female, middle-aged
Fascination with lead character as ideal Korean male
Disagreement over Dokdo Island has complicated hallyu’s
reception in Japan
“Hating the Korean Wave” publication sign of backlash
Continued Presence
Pop stars such as BoA and Rain popular in Japan
Although no replication of “Winter Sonata” popularity,
Japanese market open to drama, film, and music imports
The Dramas
Themes of Dramas
The Music
Individual Artists
Success regionally defined
Pan-Asian stars (BoA, Rain)
“Star in My Heart”
“Autumn Tale”
“Winter Sonata”
Impacts of the Wave
Economic impact
In 2004, hallyu-related merchandise boosted South
Korea’s economy by 2.4 trillion won ($1.87 billion)
In 2004, increased exports led to increases --$346 million
(Japan), $342 million (China), $104 million (Taiwan), $88
million (Hong Kong), $38 million (Thailand)
Film and drama exports alone boosted GDP by 2%
Tourism boosted 10%
Political Impact
Hallyu’s success has led to scholars theorizing about its
impact as a form of soft power
Spin-off successes include:
 Korean
 Korean language
 Korean-style fashion
 Korean textiles
 Traditional medicine
Hallyu’s Role in Economic and Cultural
Tourist industry
Theme parks
Hallyu package
Promotion of
Korean culture
Re-emphasis of
rhetoric defining
Korea’s identity
in the global
Riding the Korean Wave
The success of the Korean Wave and its potential for contributing to Korean economic growth
has led to the development of promotion campaigns depending heavily on hallyu stars and
From the Ministry’s website, “Korea Sparkling” is defined thus:
The underlying foundation of Korea's tourism brand, "Korea, Sparkling," is
"Emotional Dynamism." This concept symbolizes the passion of Korea's
people as well as the country's lively atmosphere and rich culture. It aims to
convey a vitality and enthusiasm that can only be discovered on a journey to
Korea at the same time as evoking the spirit of Korea's people and culture.
The “Korea Sparking” values are further described in. the following ways:
•The energy and passion of Korea and Koreans is felt through Korea's creative
culture, compressed into four values.
•Korea offers colorful, rich culture experiences amid four distinct seasons.
•Korea is full of people who have a passion for life.
•Korea continues to set trends and serves as a leader in technological
•Korea's people are creative and expressive.
•Korea's people are warm and affectionate.
Hallyu Effect
The Korean government’s harnessing of hallyu’s power has expanded beyond a
mere promotional campaign, influencing the ways by which Korea is packaged and
presented to the world. A tourism ad, part of the Korea sparkling campaign, makes
vivid use of imagery from some of the popular dramas such as “Winter Sonata” and
highlights aspects of Korea’s traditional heritage as a source for nostalgia and
romanticism while reinforcing Korea’s modernity
Hallyu Effect and Music
Hallyu has offered a built-in marketing plan for the promotion of Korean heritage.
Garnering interest in traditional arts has been a concern for decades. Because the
dramas and pop starts have inspired an interest in Korean culture, hallyu has become
an important tool in Korea promotional campaigns.
Juxtapositioning of classical music genres
and contemporary, imported genres (e.g.
hip hop and classical instrumental music)
Re-fashioning of ‘tradition’ as a concept
Emphasis on image
Outward, international focus
Emphasis on emotion and drama
Infinity of Sound (IS)—a trio of traditional
instrumentalists promoting their music
through pan-Asian imagery and a pop-music
sound. IS offers an example of current trends
in music development and promotion
“Traditional art is not a
definite form that has been
descended from the past
but it incorporates
everything we sense and
feel. In “Miso,” various
emotions that a woman
experiences through love
are expressed in
traditional dance,
percussion, instruments
and instrumental parts.”—
from the program for “Miso” at
the Chongdong Theater, a
performance specifically designed
for foreigners’ consumption and
introduction to traditional
performing arts.
Chongdong Theater
Since the success of the
Korean TV drama
“Daejanggeum”, Korean culture
is growing extremely popular
not only in East Asia but also all
across the globe. The
Chongdong Theater is hosting
a very interesting and
comprehensive live
performance which will give you
a good overview of the various
aspects of Korean culture. The
show is divided into 6 acts,
each of them representing a
different “discipline”.
Performance Characteristics
 Visual and romantic qualities
 Foreign/non-Korean
audiences the target
 Emphasis on fluidity of
 Rationalization of the
performance’s significance
to Korean heritage (in print
Implications of Hallyu
Increasingly inclusive definition of Korean heritage
with a sustained reliability on genres of tangible
and intangible arts identified as cultural treasures
Increasing importance of arts exports in economic
Increase of Korea’s cultural capital in the Asian
region and beyond
Inverted power dynamics, with global cultural flow
going from east to west

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