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Korean Wave

Korean Wave

The Korean wave refers to the phenomenon of Korean entertainment and popular culture rolling over the world with pop music, TV dramas, and movies. Also known as "Hallyu" in Korean, the term was first coined by the Chinese press in the late 1990s to describe the growing popularity of Korean pop culture in China.

Over the last decade, Korea has emerged as a new center for the production of transnational pop culture. Korea's success as a cultural exporter is often attributed to its high quality cultural products incorporating Western elements while never losing its edge through its re-creation of traditional Korean values and cultural identity. Inter-Asian cultural affinity and a lower cultural barrier among Asians to relate to its content also play a significant role in the proliferation of Korean culture overseas.

K-pop boy group, Big Bang

K-pop boy group, Big Bang (Photo courtesy of YG Entertainment)

If the first major wave of Hallyu was driven by Korean TV dramas within the Asian continent, the new wave of Korean pop music, referred to as K-pop, has now spread beyond Asia, reaching as far as Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East, gaining momentum worldwide.

The Korean wave has been reaching new heights alongside the rise of digital technology and online media, which have bridged the gap by allowing local culture to travel to remote corners of the world.

The surge of Korean pop culture has begun to attract the interest of the foreign press, letting Korea enjoy a considerable spotlight on its cultural frontiers.

In December 2010, CNN reported that Korea has become the "Hollywood of the East" over the past decade, dazzling several million Hallyu fans living all across Asia and around the world. In July 2011, the BBC featured coverage of the Korean Wave, referring to it as a national brand which is gradually joining the ranks of global Korean corporations like Samsung and Hyundai.

K-pop, television dramas, and movies have gained phenomenal popularity, becoming the newest engine for expanding the country's cultural exports and an integral part of Korea's national image. The enthusiasm has often led to Hallyu fans craving other Korean cultural content and Korean language education. The booming presence and enjoyment of Korean popular culture has also transformed into preference for other Korean products and lifestyles alike, leading to an increase in Korean product sales overseas. The growing interest in Korean culture has further triggered a rise in inbound foreign tourists.

For more information, go to Resources> Publications > About Korea in and download a PDF version of The Korean Wave, an English publication by the Korean Culture and Information Service (KOCIS), or click here.

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