When catastrophe struck the South Korean capital at Halloween, and greater than 150 younger revellers had been killed in a crush within the leisure district of Itaewon, the unfolding horror touched the hearts of tens of millions who had by no means visited Seoul. They had been aware of the slender alleys and neighbourhood bars because the setting for Itaewon Class, a 2020 cable TV collection a few group of misfits opening a restaurant, which grew to become a worldwide Netflix hit. This ‘Okay-drama’ success confirmed the rising worldwide attraction of South Korean fashionable tradition for the reason that late Nineteen Nineties often known as the Korean Wave, or Hallyu.
Web exporter of tradition
The time period was invented in China in 2000, when the boyband H.O.T. (Excessive-5 of Youngsters) drew 12,000 followers to a Beijing live performance. The East Asian craze for Okay-drama and Okay-pop unfold throughout continents, and in 2008 Korea grew to become a internet exporter of tradition. At this time BTS — the world’s bestselling band — is just not solely value $4.65bn to the South Korean economic system however its members are UN goodwill ambassadors. US president Joe Biden was photographed with the boyband on the White Home in June, making their finger-heart gesture in opposition to hate crime.
The ability of Hallyu extends past the profitable export of popular culture merchandise (and knock-on rise in incoming-tourist revenues) to the expansion of Korean cultural affect typically — from hanbok (nationwide costume) amongst fashionistas and kimchi (pickles) amongst foodies, and Korean-language studying overseas. Final yr, 26 Korean phrases had been added to the Oxford English Dictionary. South Korea now ranks eleventh on the world soft-power index measuring international locations’ cultural attraction.
Gentle energy allows tiny however gifted states with muscular neighbours to punch above their weight. Or as Joseph Nye, the Harvard professor who coined the time period in 1990, wrote, ‘seduction is at all times simpler than coercion’. Not solely does Hallyu problem Western — notably US — cultural supremacy; (…)
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Maya Jaggi is a author, critic, inventive director and cultural advisor who has lectured internationally on delicate energy and is a choose of the 2023 EBRD Literature Prize. Hallyu! The Korean Wave is on the V&A, London, till 25 June 2023, vam.ac.uk/kwave/.