In Tech, it’s difficult to avoid hearing some song in another language or a seeing a poster promoting a show based off of some pop stars who live across the Earth. Or if you go down to the dance gym, the cafeteria, or even outside the school sometimes, you might see groups of people diligently mimicking the dance moves of teenagers dressed in trendy, colorful clothing. Groups of kids huddle in the lunch room around a single tablet to watch a show without understanding a word they say, using subtitles to get the meaning. This is all the result of the Hallyu Wave, or the Korean Wave. Since the 1990s, people of all ages have found enjoyment in Korean entertainment with good reason. Cultural exports from Korean range from hipster street clothes, to dramatic TV shows, to catchy verses in songs sung a quarter in English and the rest in Korean. The Hallyu wave has extended to the Americas, Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia, Africa, and just about anywhere internet is available.
It first started with the band H.O.T landing in China for a highly publicized, successful performance. The drama What is Love? aired in China in 1997, grabbing 4.2% of the Chinese population, about 150 million people, to watch the premiere. From there the numbers have only increased: the band TVXQ had a total of 65 concerts in Japan, selling over 6.3 million albums over a 6 year period from 2006-2012. It had taken video platforms; Gangnam Style by Psy became the first video to have over a billion views on Youtube. Actor/singers like Rain, Won Bin, and Lee Byung Hun enjoy international success as they are invited to the Cannes Film Festival, oversees meet and greets, and award shows. BTS especially has had great success internationally- the boy group boasts over 20 million followers over Instagram, Facebook, and Instagram, performed at the 2017 Billboard Awards, and has been interviewed by Ellen and been on air with Ryan Seacrest for New Year’s Rockin Eve.
What’s the appeal? Can’t you find the same songs or TV shows in the US? Korean media in particular offers a degree of excitement and drama that American media rarely does. The viewer is usually enraptured in the oftentimes unrealistic love stories or “concepts”. Companies use expert advertising tools like giving their pop groups “concepts”, a theme around which they can sell their merchandize, capture the attention of people who want that fantasy, or boost their clientele’s appeal through, for example, an image of “sweet innocence,” or a “bad boy.” Oftentimes the viewer and listener follow famous celebrities in their careers, from show to show, or TV interview appearance to TV interview appearance. Similar to American viewers, but Korean entertainment companies have used their celebrities’ fame to blast their image everywhere to get the most money possible, and the payout is hefty. But no matter the price, we will continue to watch and support, because what else is more entertaining than fashionable teenagers dancing spectacularly while singing effortlessly?