Posts tagged ‘soft power’

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

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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June 11, 2010 at 3:46 pm 3 comments

Korea and the world – culture and entertainment – the Hallyu – part 1

I will try to post a series of articles about the 한류 (Hallyu), first defining what it is for people who are new to this phenomenom, and then trying to analyse some of its components, what kind of conclusions we can draw from it, etc.

1- What is the Hallyu ?

Where does the term come from and what does it define ?

If you are not familiar with Korean entertainment and culture, you may not have heard of the term “Hallyu” until now. Let’s start by saying that it’s pretty sure it’s because of this phenomenom that I became interested in Korea in the first place – and everything that followed (I am very fond of this country, its people, its food, its culture, everything … well, almost (too much confucianism can be quite heavy to bear)) !! Without that, I doubt I would have travelled to Korea. And I wouldn’t have been able to see the results of this phenomenom with my own eyes in several asian countries.

So, now, have I triggered your curiosity ?

Well, if we just look at the word :

– ‘한’ (“han”) is the character meaning ‘Korea’ (as in ‘한국’ -> Korean country, ‘한국어’ or ‘한국말’ -> the Korean language, …) – it is also the character said to define the very unique Korean feeling (the “Han”), the supposedly very essence of what Korea and being Korean is, but it’s not the topic here,

– and ‘류’ (“ryu”) appears to be a Sino-Korean term (a big part of the Korean language is derived from Chinese characters) that means  ‘current’ (like current in the water, or the current of time), meaning a ‘flow of something’ (in this case, a ‘flow of Korea’), but it is more commonly translated as ‘wave’ in this case.

Therefore, if you put the two characters together, you get “Korean wave” – that is the commonly used translation of this word. And it’s actually quite a suitable term for what it defines : a Korean wave that reached the shores of pretty much every Asian country, and even made its way to the West (USA, Europe) – just not as strongly as in Asia, and even reached Middle-Eastern countries !

It’s not surprising that the word used to describe this case comes from the Chinese language (mandarin, to be precise) … since it is said that it was the Chinese journalists themselves who first used it (created it) to describe what they observed, back in the late 90s ! The Korean people then started using this word too, and so now it remains the only word used to describe this phenomenom.

So, let’s dig deeper now, and see what this whole “Korean wave” is all about.

Here’s a short definition of it that I found on the Korean Internet : 1990년대 말부터 동남아시아에서 일기 시작한 한국 대중문화의 열풍 (1). According to it, the Korean wave is the sudden popularity of Korean mass culture observed all around Asia since the late 90s. Basically, in 1996, Korean dramas (TV series) were being exported to China (I don’t know if it was the first time or if it had occured in the past), and there, they were met with a huge success, and within two years a ‘Korea frenzy’ had started, as Korean singers had also started to be appreciated outside their own country.

Winter Sonata : the drama that triggered the Hallyu in Japan. (2)

Photo credit :


But it’s not all about China : Japan had its share in the process. Korean tearjerking drama “Winter Sonata” (겨울 연가, 2002 – I haven’t seen it but heard so much about it !) won the hearts of countless Japanese women, starting the Korean frenzy in Japan. To give you some idea about how big its success was, I saw with my own eyes tons of Japanese magasines with Bae Yong-joon, the lead actor of “Winter Sonata”, on their covers in Japan, in 2009 – several years after the drama first aired ! I also noticed places in Seoul clearly targeted at Japanese tourists since they also use his image to sell. Here’s a picture I took in Seoul this fall :

Proofs that the Hallyu is still on... (photo by Nathalie Veldhuizen, do not copy without permission)

The man on the poster in the middle is no one else than Bae Yong-joon, and he is surrounded by products with images of other famous Hallyu stars.

So, to sum it all up : ‘Hallyu’ is the expression created by Chinese journalists in late 90s-early 2000 to describe the Korean cultural success across Asia (and the world). Its most visible manifestations are all the Korean cultural products (TV series, movies, CDs, …) and stars (actors, singers, multi-entertainers) that are famous all around Asia (from Japan to Malaysia, through China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Philipines, …). In the West, it’s mostly through Korean movies (in Europe), or Korean idol bands that the Asian-American young people like, that we can see the Hallyu. But the Hallyu has also reached the shores of South-American countries, Russia, Central Asian countries, and even the African continent … The Korean Wave sure is a big wave !

I will explain more about things like the developpement of the Korean wave, its key players, the strategies adopted by Korea to use this phenomenom to promote their country, and other aspects of this huge and interesting topic in upcoming articles (hence the “part 1” on this article’s title).

Sources :


(2) Photo credit :


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Korea and the world – culture and entertainment – the Hallyu – part 1 by Nathalie VELDHUIZEN is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 France License. (except the pictures)
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March 26, 2010 at 11:55 am 4 comments

Le marketing des stars en Corée – l’exemple de KIM Yuna

English version here

KIM Yuna, patineuse artistique sud-coréenne de 19 ans, vient de remporter une médaille d’or aux Jeux Olympiques.

J’ai eu l’occasion de constater son statut de star/idole nationale dans son pays natal lors de mon séjour de 5 semaines en Corée du Sud cet hiver. KIM Yuna est ce qu’on appelle “bankable” : son nom (et surtout son image) fait vendre. Beaucoup ! (en Corée du Sud) De tout ! Des entreprises de nouvelles technologies telles Samsung, jusqu’aux oeuvres caritatives (j’ai par exemple reçu des autocollants de Noël à son effigie pour le compte de la Korean National Tuberculosis Association alors que je parcourais le campus de Yonsei, à Séoul), son succès (et sa beauté) l’ont rendue omniprésente. Je ne compte pas le nombre de jeunes coréens qui m’ont demandé si je la connaissais !

Il me semble que, dès lors qu’un artiste ou sportif sud-coréen commence à être connu en dehors de son propre pays, il acquiert un statut de star internationale dans son pays, et se retrouve alors sollicité pour vendre un peu tout et n’importe quoi. Son image fait vendre (alors qu’en France, ce phénomène ne fonctionne que dans une moindre mesure, avec des personnalités telles que Zinedine Zidane) et l’artiste ou le sportif se retrouve alors plus ou moins omniprésent dans son pays, par le biais de publicités.

Le nom de KIM Yuna, tout comme ceux du footballeur PARK Jiseung et du nageur PARK Taehwan, est connu – et loué – par la majorité des coréens. Il n’est donc pas surprenant de découvrir que KIM Yuna et PARK Taehwan ont aussi été recrutés comme ambassadeurs de leur pays par la campagne de communication Dynamic Korea. Cette campagne, renouvelée chaque année, vise à promouvoir l’image de la Corée à l’étranger, et utilise depuis plusieurs années déjà les images de nombreuses stars sud-coréennes (acteurs, chanteurs, sportifs) – surfant ainsi sur la Hallyu (la vague coréenne – du soft power efficace en asie et qui commence à rayonner plus largement).

Que pensez-vous de l’usage marketing intensif de “stars nationales” en Corée du Sud ? Et du fait que cela semble fonctionner pour l’instant ?

Quelques articles :

February 27, 2010 at 10:20 am Leave a comment

Sport and entertainment marketing in South-Korea – Kim Yuna

Version française ici

The 19 year-old Korean ice-skater KIM Yuna just won the gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics.

I spent 5 weeks in South-Korea this winter, and I witnessed how popular and “bankable” KIM Yuna is in her homeland : she’s just everywhere ! Selling everything, all kinds of products ! Her image is worth a lot of money, and is used to sell many things, in a typical Korean way of using national stars in countless marketing campaigns. Her name, along with footballer’s PARK Ji-seung and swimmer PARK Taehwan – to just name the most famous ones – seems to be known and loved (revered ?) by almost every Korean person… (from what I observed). Many Korean young people asked me if I knew these athletes when I was there ! I told them that they are not as famous in Europe as Zidane is in Japan and South-Korea…. but maybe KIM Yuna’s Olympic gold medal will change that …

International athletes like KIM Yuna or PARK Taehwan are known by almost every Korean person, and so it is not surprising to find out that both of them are also ambassadors for South Korea’s international image-making campaign “Dynamic Korea” (basically every internationally-known Korean star seems to be asked to become ambassador for their country – in order to expand its soft-power, like through the Hallyu ?).

What do you think about the (over ?)-use of Nation stars’ image in marketing campaign in South-Korea ?

And, by extension, what do you think of how the Korean entertainment and sport industries promote their stars/champions like marketing products ?

Some articles :

February 26, 2010 at 9:44 pm Leave a comment


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