The Hallyu wave: Why Korean media is here to stay

A look into South Korean media and the impact it has had. 

The Hallyu wave: Why Korean media is here to stay

BTS, Squid Game and Parasite. These are some of South Korea’s most recognisable pop culture contributions today. For many, hearing BTS on the radio or watching the latest K-Drama on Netflix is the first time they have encountered South Korean media. For some, these new developments may seem inconsequential or irrelevant. For me? I believe that the impact of South Korean media should not be understated, as its influence on the world’s stage has just begun. 

The rise in popularity and global awareness of South Korean entertainment is often dubbed the ‘Hallyu Wave’. The phrase refers to the growth in consciousness and acknowledgement of Korean pop culture, including music, film, television and even food. As previously mentioned, the K-Pop group BTS is just one example of the exportation of Korean pop culture. To understand why South Korean media should not be underestimated, it is integral to understand the elements of the industry and the success that followed.

K-Pop

Focusing on Korean Pop, also known as K-Pop, there has been a rise in popularity in the Western world. However, K-Pop began in the early 1990s with a mixture of soloists and groups. These artists are often referred to as ‘idols’ and often are given intense training before their music debut. 

K-Pop did help push the beginnings of the Hallyu Wave in the mid-2000s and early 2010s. Groups such as ‘EXO’, ‘Big Bang’ and ‘2NE1’ had amassed large international followings amongst young people due to sites such as Tumblr, Twitter, and YouTube. The success of current groups such as BTS and Blackpink are partially attributed to those same reasons. 

As social media sites have grown, K-Pop found success in the growing access that users worldwide now had to the music genre. Trending music videos on YouTube and fandom-based communication on Twitter and Tumblr led to sustained growth in the K-Pop community.

Korean Film and Television

Similarly to K-Pop, Korean film and TV shows enjoyed success through social media. Nonetheless, what propelled K-Drama and Korean films was streaming. The availability to watch Squid Game on your Netflix account or Parasite on Amazon Prime is taken for granted. The rise of globalisation in conjunction with streaming platforms providing access to international media has been a significant factor. Whilst the quality of Korean media has always been excellent, sustained exposure has meant it is bleeding into the mainstream. As a fan of Korean media, I love this. The shows I have come to love are receiving massive attention, and the communities surrounding them are growing. Yet, I cannot help but be wary of western expectations and pressures that may be pushed with this growth. 

Korean media is not to be undermined

In the modern-day, social media has an increasingly present role in our lives. The development of applications and the introduction of others have meant that the aspects that have pushed the Hallyu Wave are not slowing down. In addition, the increasing integration of globalisation in our daily lives may lead to other cultural shifts in pop culture. South Korean entertainment is not slowing down anytime soon, so it’s time to stop undermining it.

Undermining Korean media is not the only problem. Placing value on it based on recent Western achievements is an issue too. There is an immense amount of pressure faced by Korean creatives to get their album to chart on Billboard or have that movie nominated for an Oscar. As South Korean entertainment becomes more integrated, so does the pressure to conform to Western standards of what deserves praise. This can fulfil a level of Western centrism, in which the wider public only recognises what has been validated by these institutions. Instead of celebrating Korean media for what it is, there seems to be a harmful attitude that Korean media has finally caught up with the West.

South Korean TV shows and films are being watched internationally more than ever. Events such as HallyuPopFest, a K-Pop festival based in London, are also being introduced. As we see the rise in South Korea’s pop culture capital, I urge that its longevity and impact should not be underestimated. With its exposure in the Western sphere, we are seeing much-needed contributions towards higher levels of representation, both culturally and linguistically. Potentially leading to non-Western media across the world finally being showcased and celebrated. 

Author

Nelle Osei

Nelle Osei Contributor

Nelle is currently a Journalism and Communications student with a love for all things pop culture.

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