Korea and the world – culture and entertainment – the Hallyu – part 2 : development

June 11, 2010 at 3:46 pm 3 comments

This article is the second of the “Korea and the world – culture and entertainment – the Hallyu” series. The first part (about what the Hallyu is) can be found here.

This article is based on what I experienced, noticed and learned about the Hallyu, so it is only partial and somehow biased. Since it is still quite a new phenomenom (about 10 years-old), I haven’t found much thorough studies about it (but I warmly welcome any such work you might send me !). That’s why you are all welcome to contribute to this article through the comment section, in order to make it more complete..

In this article, I try to show how the Hallyu reached countries around the world on different levels.

In France (Europe)

The Hallyu mainly reached France through films. Since Europe is quite far from Asia – and quite different too,  and since the Korean community here is not as huge as it is in the USA, the Hallyu hasn’t really hit Europe strongly yet.

In France, a country in which cinema is important (it is an art), the Korean wave is a Cinema wave. It reached a peak in 2004-2005, with the success of PARK Chan-Wook’s “Old Boy” at the Cannes Film Festival. Still, Korean films are mostly enjoyed by movie-lovers and not the average Joe. It doesn’t help that Korean movies are mostly screened in big cities (sometimes only in Paris), and not always for a long time. The total of Korean films screened in French movie theaters, including co-productions, are : 6 in 2002, 9 in 2003, 10 in 2004, 11 in 2005, 6 in 2006, 7 in 2007, and 11 in 2008 (according to L’annuel du Cinéma 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009). So it seems that there was a second peak in 2008, but I’m not sure it stayed the same in 2009 (I feel like there were very few Korean films last year).

Number of Korean movies screened in France since 2002

It seems, from what I see, that these past years, Korean cinema mostly appeals to its fans and movie-fans, whereas it once succeeded in reaching a wider audience, in the first half of the 2000’s, with KIM Ki-duk’s movies, IM Kwon-Taek movies, and others, including PARK Chan-wook’s.

It seems that Korean cinema benefited from the interest of French people in Japanese films and culture. This Japanese trend is still on, and started in the 80’s (mainly thanks to the manga and anime Akira). The same people, attracted by Japan, were also usually attracted by Hong-Kong films too. And that’s probably how some Korean films started to gain interest from French moviegoers.

But the music part of the Hallyu doesn’t seem to have reached France (and Europe) that much yet (even though there seems to be more and more awareness about Korean music in several European countries). Most of the youngsters who know about it seem to be of Asian descent. But, thanks to Internet, it seems that there are more “non-ethnic-Asian” people starting to have interest into Korean pop music these past years. It still stays a minor movement, as it isn’t known at all at the national level, but it is there (Japanese music is more widely known, but is still not big enough to have Japanese songs played on national radio networks, so Korean music ….).

And Korean dramas (TV series) are only known by kpop fans, through Internet (at least in France).

If you are from any European country beside France and know about the Hallyu, please tell us about how the Hallyu reached your country.

In North-America (USA, Canada)

Contrary to France, it seems that the Hallyu reached North-America mostly through music (Kpop), and dramas. These past years especially, there’s been more and more signs of a possible big Korean wave hit in North-America : Korean singers trying to succeed in the USA (starting to have some success now in 2010, with concerts of the Wonder Girls and 2PM this spring, Rain winning an MTV award last week, …), Korean top actors and stars playing in US blockbusters with mid-success (LEE Byung-hyun, Rain), the launching of a website officially broadcasting Korean dramas subtitled in English since somewhere around 2008 (only for people in the US), …

Things are probably turning out like this because Korean artists have been trying to conquer the Western market through the USA (and not Europe), and also because of the Asian community in North-America.

If you are from North-America, please let me know more about how the Hallyu reached your country.

In Japan

The Hallyu hit the Japanese shores strongly right at the beginning of the phenomenom, mostly through dramas and music, and is still going quite strong.

Japan is actually (I think) the first country Korean artists seem to try to conquer when they want to expand overseas. Many of Korean top singers are also very famous in Japan, with even some, like BoA, almost considered as Japanese artists (since she’s been working in Japan for a long time, and released many songs in Japanese). I actually saw albums from BoA labelled as “J-pop” in some Japanese music stores … Some of these artists took Japanese names for their promotion in Japan (the most famous one being DongBanShinKi/Tohoshinki). Some new groups even started in Japan before Korea (CN Blue for example) !

It is interesting to notice that Korean artists adapt themselves to the country they try to conquer, by taking a local name for example, but mostly by promoting exclusive songs in Japanese (and not their Korean songs translated in Japanese, even though they also do that), making different music video adapted to the codes of the country, taking part in local shows, changing their fashion style, etc… And it works when they do that !

Still from the drama "IRIS"

About dramas, they are quite popular, and some are even intended to a Japanese audience too (not only Korean) from the very beginning. An example would be IRIS, broadcasted in Korea in late 2009 (while I was there), and that has just been broadcasted this spring in Japan (with new exclusive music, …). The trailer had been released with English subtitles from the very beginning (check it out here). It seems that the drama met quite a success in Japan too. But other dramas are popular in Japan, some being truly Korean, others being Korean version of famous Japanese manga (like the frenzy around Boys Over Flowers, the Korean version of Hana Yori Dango, a beloved manga, in early 2009) or Asian stories.

In China

It seems that Korean dramas and some big Korean singers and groups are very popular in China. A huge concert took place in China this past May, with several famous Korean singers, and it was sold-out very fast.

I don’t know much more about the Hallyu in China though, but it must be visible since the term “Hallyu” comes from Chinese journalists and since China was one of the first countries to be reached by the Korean wave in the late 90s, along with Japan.

If you are from China and would like to share with us about the Hallyu in your country, feel free to do so in the comment section.

In South-East Asia

It seems that pretty much every aspect of the Korean wave has reached south-east asian countries : music, dramas, and movies. I met youngsters fans of Korean singers in Vietnam and Thailand, and I know that youngsters in Malaysia and the Philipines are also huge fans of Hallyu stars and dramas. I also noticed ads using Korean popstars in SEA countries.

If you are from South-East Asia and would like to share with us about how the Hallyu reached your country, feel free to do so in the comment section.

Other countries

It seems (from the Hallyu international fan communities, the fan-subtitles for dramas, the subtitles for official programs of the Korean TV channel promoting Korea, …) that there are also people reached by the Hallyu in Middle-East countries, Europe (Spain, Russia, ..), Brazil, some other South-Amercian countries, and even Africa !! Now, it may still only be a really minor movement in each country, but it is still quite impressive !

If you are from one of these countries and know about the Hallyu, please share with us how it spread in your country through the comment section.

How did the Hallyu spread ?

Nothing really surprising in how the Hallyu spread around the world : it started in Asia, with its closest neighbours (Japan and China), then spread to South-East Asia, North America and Europe on different levels, and finally reached the rest of the world. Feel free to correct me if I’m mistaken here.

The spread of the Hallyu in the world.

Knowing this, many Korean artists are learning Japanese, Chinese and/or English (when in a band, sometimes each member would specialize in one language). I guess Korean is not a global language…

Korean pop-culture got to be known first through Asian TV channels, International Film Festivals and Asian radio channels. But the Hallyu also started when the Internet started to become more widely used, so it also took advantage from that. Actually, nowadays, it’s mostly through Internet that the Hallyu reaches many countries (videos, communities, music, …). And it seems that the Korean entertainment industry knows quite well how to use Internet (no wonder since South-Korea is one of the top high-tech nations) and uses that knowledge to further spread the Hallyu worldwide.

Fasten your seatbelts everyone ~ a big Korean wave might hit you one of these days !

한류 화이팅 !!

The next article of this series will be about some key players of the Hallyu, and the one after should be about strategies using the Hallyu effect.



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Korea and the world – culture and entertainment – the Hallyu – part 2 : development by Nathalie VELDHUIZEN is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. al*fa  |  July 25, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Hi I’m Indonesian…

    I’m going to tell u how hallyu reached Indonesia

    Firstly, it’s because korean big hit dramas like winter sonata, endless love, etc..
    It was aired here in our local Tv stasion

    Many teens love K-drama ever since
    recently,, teens here were crazy over Boys Over Flower..
    It was such a BIG hit…
    every magz wrote about BOF and its actors and actress

    secondly, because of internet
    many Indonesian blogs post about K-entertaiment news everyday…
    from these blogs, we know about the latest K-pop, K-drama, and reality shows..

    then, we like to search its program through youtube.

    The last (that I know),, from magz…
    many magz writen in Indonesian discuss about asian artists and most of them are Korean artists..

    oh yeah… It’s also easy in Indonesia
    to find the piracy korean drama dvds..
    just wait one or two weeks after those dramas ended in Korea… Them we can find it in everu dvds store here

    that’s all
    I hope it can help you enrich your writing

  • 2. crazynat  |  July 29, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Thank you for your contribution, al*fa !

    So it seems the Hallyu reached your country in the early 2000’s, like other countries, with “Winter Sonata” and other dramas.

    And the craziness aroung BOF is really amazing ! I think it’s the 1st huge Hallyu hit that I was able to witness and experience “live” !

    It seems like what helped spread the Hallyu in Indonesia was the “official” way first : the media (TV, magazines), and then Internet. It seems to be like this in SEA countries…

    I was wondering : are local (Indonesian) tv dramas popular in Indonesia ? Are Korean dramas more popular, less popular, or do they share the same amount of popularity ?

    I wonder if maybe Korean dramas became popular in some countries because of some kind of lack (of quality ?) of local dramas …

  • 3. winterrose  |  January 31, 2011 at 12:56 am

    Hi ! I am from the Philippines. It seemed the Hallyu dramas caught attention of the viewing public with the showing of Full House and Stairway to Heaven . There could be other earlier dramas. They were dubbed in Filipino and the characters given Filipino names or names the FIlipinos can relate to . Nowadays, the Korean names have been retained but they are still dubbed. There is a tendency for the local TV stations to buy the rights of highly rated dramas and flaunt it locally as such . Dramas are rerun several times and sometimes there is a tendency for TV stations to get the dramas where Filipinos are already familiar with the actors such as Kwon Sang Woo ,Kim Hyun Joong, Kim Bum ,Rain ,Song Hye Gyo and others . I do not know if the local production of dramas are more expensive than buying the rights of Korean dramas because there are more of the latter being shown almost all day . Of course the online viewing sites have provided instant access to Kdramas with English translation.

    The popularity of the Korean entertainment celebrities are increased through the blogs created by local fans. A number of these entertainers have in fact visited the country to do concerts ,shoot movies ,have fanmeets and for R and R . The KPop convention had already been held twice .

    Kdramas are said to have been accepted and easily loved because of simple and similar values and aspirations in their storylines . Kdramas are also held in esteem because of their high production values . Kpop are also popular with the young people .

    Just like in Indonesia ,pirated copies of DVD’s are readily available because the originals are hard to find and very expensive. Even the locally dubbed korean dramas are pirated.

    I expect the Hallyu wave will become stronger in the coming years unless there will be policy restrictions because of undue competition with local dramas.

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