Hallyu: Ha-ha-Ho-ho-Jai Ho

Prof (Dr) Shalini Verma ‘Lifoholic’

After Karan Johar’s affinity for the letter K in the past decade, the appeal of this K has transcended in form of – K-food, K-travel, K-beauty, K-Pop, K-dramas and K-ecommerce – slowly opening doors to Korean trade in general. This Korean Wave referred to as ‘Hallyu’ is the global popularity of South Korea’s cultural economy exporting pop culture, entertainment, music, TV dramas and movies. In fact, ‘Hallyu’ is a collective term used to refer to the phenomenal growth of Korean culture and popular culture encompassing everything from music, movies, drama to online games and Korean cuisine just to name a few.

South Korea is one of the only countries in the world that has etched its goal of becoming the world’s leading exporter of popular culture. It is a way for Korea to develop its ‘soft power’. In 1990, the term ‘Soft power’ was coined by one Harvard political scientist – Joseph Nye. It refers to the intangible power a country wields through its image, rather than through hard force. Hard force refers to military power or economic power.

Hallyu has been a blessing for Korea in terms of its expansion in businesses, culture and country image across the world. First spread to China and Japan, later to Southeast Asia and several countries worldwide where it continues to have a strong impact.

So tremendously impactful has been the Hallyu effect that more recently in 2019, it was estimated USD 12.3 billion boost on the Korean economy. However, the scenario has not been as encouraging as it is now. In 1965, Korea’s GDP per capita was less than that of Ghana. Today, South Korea is the world’s 12th largest economy.

This transition has not happened overnight. Probably the most important factor that bolstered Hallyu to a great extent, was the Korean Government’s decision in the early 1990s to lift the ban on foreign travel for Koreans. This made way for a number of Koreans to explore the western world, mainly the US and Europe.

Many pursued their education in these countries and others started their careers in esteemed companies in the Europe and the US before returning to Korea during the late 1990s. These western educated Koreans brought with them new perspectives of doing businesses, new subtleties and interpretations to art, cinema and music and innovative forms of expressions. This gave birth to an immense pool of fresh, young, and highly qualified talent waiting to explore opportunities within Korea.

Over the last two decades, South Korea has become very rich and very futuristic.

Of late, according to Bloomberg  News report, Netflix Inc’s biggest original series ‘Squid Game’ – a nine-episode thriller, in which cash-strapped contestants play childhood games with deadly consequences in a bid to win whopping 45.6 billion – is estimated to be worth almost $900 million for the OTT streaming giant.

The series is also the first Korean drama to snatch the top spot on Netflix in the US. The show has even drawn positive comments from Amazon Inc founder Jeff Bezos, with the billionaire calling the work “impressive and inspiring.”

There’s no denying that the pull of K-dramas and K-pop has ushered in the Hallyu in India too. Here, its popularity has trickled down to Korean brands in the country.

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