Over the years, the contemporary culture of South Korea has been molded by the vigorous pursuit of modernization. Following the cessation of the Korean War, the country attempted to better its economy, discounting the impacts of the Japanese Colonial Rule and the destructions due to the Korean War (Kim, 2004). The 1988 Olympics in South Korea signified a remarkable upsurge in technological and economic development. The westernization, urbanization, and industrialization of South Korea, particularly Seoul, has effected significant changes in the Korean People's way of life. The developing economy and changing lifestyles have enhanced the concentration of its populace in main cities with multi-generational household arrangements subverting into nuclear family living systems. The Korean wave also referred to as the Korean fever, is an expression used to refer to the significantly enhanced universality of the South Korean culture globally. Hallyu is another term used to delineate the Korean wave. The term Hallyu originates from China. During the 1990s, the expression was used in China by journalists to underscore the rapid growth in the popularity of the modern culture of South Korea as well as the advancement of its entertainment business in China (Choi & Kwon, 2013).
The Korean Wave
The Korean film industry is a general phrase used to represent the South Korean and North Korean film industries. Although these countries' film industries have encountered significant developments, only the South Korean Industry has attained global recognition and acclaim. The Korean wave refers to the period (the 1990s) when the culture of Korea was recognized internationally; this includes East Asia, the U.K, and the United States (De, 2012). Feature films, popular music, television series, and other forms of music represent a significant section of the Korean wave. Periods of military dictatorship anteceded by around thirty-five years of colonial rule under the Japanese, and three years of capture by the U.S Army, greatly impacted the Korean film industry. Since the development of a democratic government in South Korea, successive popular Korean culture waves, initially driven by the export of K-pop music and television soaps and the production of diverse and new screen genres, aesthetic styles, and local narratives, have created a lasting impression on audiences globally. After the year 1996, there were considerable increases in the conditions necessary for the exhibition and production of various local films by directors, for instance, Kim Ji-Woon, Lim Soon-rye, Hong Sang-Soo, Par Chan-wook, Im Sang-soo, and Lee Chang-dong (Meebae, 2017). A group of upcoming stars, expansion of savvy local film organizations, and the reinforcement of quasi-governmental film development and promotion agency (KOFIC) played a significant role in enhancing the capacity of the industry to secure a favored status in the local film market and international market.
With regards to the international standards, the predominance of the Korean film within its market is a significant cultural success, shared notably by other national cinemas, for instance, the United States, Japan, India, France, and China (Park, 2014). The advancements of the Korean film within its domestic market may be attributed to the proactive film policy by the Korean government, significant support from the local audience, and the provision of a variety of genres which consistently aim to exceed the expectations of the audience. Hallyu, an authentic wave of popular cultural content displayed through films, print, and television, has been a source of entertainment for both critics and fans in countries such as Japan, Europe, Southeast Asia, Latin America, Middle East, and China, since the early 2000s (Um, 2013). Crucial emphasis focuses entirely on the export, consumption, and production of important and popular cultural forms in diverse aesthetic contents, narratives, and genres. These aspects play a significant role in familiarizing audiences overseas and locally with the Korean cinema. Invaluable insights concerning this dynamic cultural incidence have been incorporated in various studies, for instance, Iwabuchi and Chua's collection of East Asian Popular Culture: Analysis of the Korean Wave.
The Growth of the Korean Culture in Japan
During the year 2003, Winter Sonata, a drama serial from South Korea, was broadcasted by various Japanese stations; this further enhanced its popularity. During this time, the TV show's ratings were significantly higher than the greatly awaited FIFA World Cup in Japan and Korea and still recuperating from the 1997 financial crisis in Asia (Taylor 2013). The show later grew into a cult status following the attraction of around twenty percent of prime-time audiences in 2003. Moreover, NHK earned revenues of approximately 3.5 million U.S dollars, from selling Winter Sonata-related merchandise. The organization sold around 1,200,000 novels (Winter Sonata) and 330,000 DVD sets (Um, 2013). Additionally, according to the New York Times, Bae, an actor in Winter Sonata, was regarded as the 2.3 billion man due to his significance in 2004. The Prime Minister of Japan further asserted that Bae-Yong-Joon was more popular than him in Japan.
Many enthusiastic audiences of the TV drama were middle-aged females. For instance, during a particular period, approximately three-thousand middle-aged females assembled at Narita International Airport located in Japan to meet Yoon Sama, a Korean actor in the show. A scholarly report published on Keio Communication Review during the year 2007, revealed that around three-hundred and fifty police officers were hired to guard the scene. However, despite the police officers' presence at the scene, around ten women were hospitalized due to the injury they sustained as they pushed over to see him. According to a study carried out by various researchers at Samsung Economic Research Institute, the Hallyu had four primary stages (Meebae, 2017). During the initial phase, the Korean culture's popularity was enhanced through the increased production of dramas and films. The second phase marked the increasing demands of commodities with famous pop idols. During the third phase, consumers moved on to purchase Korean services and goods such as electronic commodities that were not directly associated with pop stars. During the fourth stage, the desirable impression of the Korean popular culture was perceived by various audiences.
Korean Popular Music
Many pop stars and groups from Korea are well known in various countries in the world, for instance, Southeast Asia and East Asia. Korean pop tends to emulate the American pop music, and it usually features young music performers. The emergence of Seo Taiji and Boys, a famous music group, in 1992, signified a critical turning point for Korean pop music. The grouping incorporated various features of the American popular genres of music, for instance, rap, techno, and rock into its music production (Choi & won, 2013). Dance-oriented activities also dominated the Korean pop music scene during the 1990s. Rock music has currently been introduced into the Korean mainstream with bands such as Yoon Do-Hyun achieving national and international recognition, for instance, Japan. Popular musicians who have diverged from the customary K-pop music include Lee Jung Hyung, a techno artist of the female gender, 1TYM, a rap troupe made of four members, and Wax, a musician of the female gender. Some of the internationally recognized hip-hop musicians from South Korea include Epik High, Drunken Tiger, and Jinusean. The wave in K-pop is recognized as an international phenomenon; however, it arrived in Japan around eight years ago. During the year 2010, Girls' generation and KARA entered the Japanese music charts with their respective singles.
Both groups were successful in producing and releasing their hit singles which were highly rated in Korea, and after undergoing significant translations, their popularity in Japan was enhanced. Moreover, various K-pop groups in Korea are currently becoming more established in the Japanese music scene. Although artists from the West such as Beyonce and Lady Gaga are popular Japan, they are usually considered as incoming visitors as opposed to the Korean celebrities. The latest batch of K-pop artists often stick around and are becoming more popular in the Japanese television networks. During the year 2011, Girls Generation and KARA released songs particularly for the Japanese market; these songs were produced in Japanese, and the popularity of these songs have grown through time. The relationship amid Japan and South Korea in the entertainment industry is growing significantly due to K-pop. For instance, Twice, a popular Korean music group has some members of the Japanese origin. South Korea once hosted a show known as Produce48; this was a collaboration with the Japanese pop idol grouping. The large-scale project involved the selection of members for a girl group from a pool of ninety-six contestants from Japan and South Korea through public votes. Other elements of the show included the voting for the grouping's conception, debut single, and name.
In conclusion, various elements of the Korean culture, particularly its popular culture have metastasized across the world. The Korean popular culture is among the most celebrated cultural forces in the globe. The film industry of a country often represents the lifestyle and culture of its inhabitants. The universality of the Korean culture is highly attributed to the Korean wave.
Choi, E., & Kwon, S. (2013). Multicultural Approach: To Korean Contemporary Music with The Traditional Folk Song Bird, Bird, Blue Bird. American Music Teacher, 62(4), 18-23
De, M. B. (2012). The Korean mind: Understanding contemporary Korean culture. Tokyo: Tuttle Pub.
Kim, K. (2004). The remasculinization of Korean cinema. Durham: Duke University Press.
Meebae Lee. (2017). Entangled Modernities in the Culture of Korean Music Publishing: Challenges in Establishing a Contemporary Korean Art Music Archive. Fontes Artis Musicae, 64(3), 215-226.
Park, Y. (2014). Unexpected alliances: Independent filmmakers, the state, and the film industry in post-authoritarian South Korea. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press
Um, H. (2013). Korean musical drama: Pansori and the making of tradition in modernity. Farnham, Surrey, England: Ashgate.
Taylor-Jones, K. E. (2013). Rising Sun, Divided Land: Japanese and South Korean Filmmakers. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
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