Korean wave

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The Korean wave (Korean한류; Hanja韓流; RRHallyu; MRHallyu, About this soundlisten , a neologism, literally meaning "wave/flow of Korea") is the increase in global popularity of South Korean culture since the 1990s.[1][2][3] First driven by the spread of K-dramas and K-pop across East, South and Southeast Asia during its initial stages, the Korean Wave evolved from a regional development into a global phenomenon, carried by the Internet and social media and the proliferation of K-pop music videos on YouTube.[4][5][6][7][8] While some sources attribute the term Hallyu, a variation of a Japanese expression using Ryu (流) as a postfix to refer ‘~way’, ‘~style’, ‘~group’,[9] to being first used by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in South Korea in 1999, when the ministry produced a music CD titled in Chinese 韓流—Song from Korea; other scholarly sources attribute the term's ascendance from Korean television dramas first airing on Chinese television in 1997, naming the phenomenon hanliu (simplified Chinese: 韩流; traditional Chinese: 韓流; pinyin: Hánliú), meaning "Korean wave".[10] The term was adopted by Chinese media to refer to the success of South Korean popular culture in China.[11] The term was reintroduced in Japan as hanryu or kanryu by the Asahi Shimbun in 2001.[12]

Since the turn of the 21st century, South Korea has emerged as a major exporter of popular culture and tourism, aspects which have become a significant part of its burgeoning economy. The growing popularity of Korean pop culture in the world was at least partly driven by the South Korean government supporting its creative industries through subsidies and funding for start-ups, as a form of soft power with the goal of becoming a leading global exporter of culture in line with Japanese and British culture, a niche that the United States has dominated for nearly a century. In 2014, the South Korean government allocated 1% of its annual budget to cultural industries and raised a $1 billion fund to nurture popular culture.[13][14] As the impact of K-pop and Korean drama like "Gangnam Style" and Moon Embracing the Sun accomplished influential recognition and international reputation, Korean society began to be recognized as developed on par with the Western world.[15]

The success of the Korean wave is, in part, due to the development of social networking services and online video sharing platforms, which have allowed the Korean entertainment industry to reach a sizable overseas audience. Korean dramas enjoy widespread availability via streaming services which often offer subtitles in multiple languages. Many K-dramas have been adapted throughout the world, and some have had great impact on other countries. K-dramas have attracted attention for their fashion, style and culture all over the world. Through the use of social media in facilitating promotion, distribution, and consumption of various forms of Korean entertainment—specifically K-Pop—that has contributed to the surge in worldwide popularity since the mid-2000s.[14][16]

The Korean wave has become an influential global phenomenon since the start of the 21st century, heavily impacting the contemporary cultures, music industry, film industry, television industry, and behavioral aspects of various people throughout the world.[17][18][19][20][21] As of December 2019, the Korean wave is led by K-pop with its stand-out acts such as BTS, Blackpink and Twice, followed by Korean dramas.[22]


The Korean term for the phenomenon of the Korean Wave is Hanryu (Hangul: 한류), more commonly romanized as Hallyu. The term is made of two root words: han (한/韓) meaning "Korean", and ryu (류/流) meaning "flow" or "wave",[23] and referring to the diffusion of Korean culture.

This term is sometimes applied differently outside of Korea; for example, overseas, Hallyu drama refers to Korean drama in general, but in Korea, Hallyu drama and Korean drama are taken to mean slightly different things. According to researcher Jeongmee Kim, the term Hallyu refers only to dramas that have gained success overseas, or feature actors that are internationally recognised.[24]

Korean Cabbage Kimchi; a staple of Korean cuisine

The Korean wave encompasses the global awareness of different aspects of South Korean culture including film and television (particularly "K-dramas"), K-pop, manhwa, the Korean language, and Korean cuisine. Some commentators also consider traditional Korean culture in its entirety to be part of the Korean wave.[25] American political scientist Joseph Nye defines the Korean wave as "the growing popularity of all things Korean, from fashion and film to music and cuisine."[26]



An early mention of Korean culture as a form of soft power can be found in the writings of Kim Gu, leader of the Korean independence movement and president of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea. Towards the end of his autobiography, he wrote the following:

... I want our nation to be the most beautiful in the world. By this I do not mean the most powerful nation. Because I have felt the pain of being invaded by another nation, I do not want my nation to invade others. It is sufficient that our wealth makes our lives abundant; it is sufficient that our strength is able to prevent foreign invasions. The only thing that I desire in infinite quantity is the power of a noble culture. This is because the power of culture both makes us happy and gives happiness to others....

— Kim Gu, Baekbeomilji (excerpt from March 1st, 1948)

1950–1995: Foundations of cultural industry[edit]

In 1961, which was after the Korean War (1950–53) and the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement, South Korea's economy began to fully recover from the war and experienced a period of rapid economic growth known as the Miracle on the Han River.[27]

In the film industry, screen quotas were introduced in South Korea during Park Chung-hee's presidency, restricting the number of foreign films shown in cinemas.[28] These were intended to prevent competition between domestic films and foreign blockbuster movies.[29] However, in 1986, the Motion Pictures Exporters Association of America filed a complaint to the United States Senate regarding the regulations imposed by the South Korean government,[30] which was compelled to lift the restrictions. In 1988, Twentieth Century Fox became the first American film studio to set up a distribution office in South Korea, followed by Warner Brothers (1989), Columbia (1990), and Walt Disney (1993).[31][32]

By 1994, Hollywood's share of the South Korean movie market had reached a peak of around 80 percent, and the local film industry's share fell to a low of 15.9 percent.[33] That year, president Kim Young-sam was advised to provide support and subsidies to Korean media production, as part of the country's export strategy.[34] According to South Korean media, the former President was urged to take note of how total revenues generated by Hollywood's Jurassic Park had surpassed the sale of 1.5 million Hyundai automobiles; with the latter a source of national pride, this comparison reportedly influenced the government's shift of focus towards culture as an exportable industry.[35][36] At this time, the South Korean Ministry of Culture set up a cultural industry bureau to develop its media sector, and many investors were encouraged to expand into film and media. Thus, by the end of 1995 the foundation was laid for the rise of Korean culture.[35]

1995–1999: Development of cultural industry[edit]

In July 1997, the Asian financial crisis led to heavy losses in the manufacturing sector, prompting a handful of businesses to turn to the entertainment sector.[37]

According to The New York Times, South Korea began to lift restrictions on cultural imports from its former colonial ruler Japan in 1998. With an aim of tackling an impending "onslaught" of Japanese movies, anime, manga, and J-pop, the South Korean Ministry of Culture made a request for a substantial budget increase, which allowed the creation of 300 cultural industry departments in colleges and universities nationwide.[38]

In February 1999, the first local big-budget film, Shiri, was released and became a major commercial success. It grossed over US$11 million, surpassing the Hollywood blockbuster Titanic.[39][40]

1999–2010: Korean wave in Asian region[edit]

Around this time, several Korean television dramas were broadcast in China. On November 19, 1999, one of China's state-controlled daily newspapers, the Beijing Youth Daily, published an article acknowledging the "zeal of Chinese audiences for Korean TV dramas and pop songs".[41] In February 2000, S.M. Entertainment's boy-band H.O.T. became the first modern K-pop artist to give an overseas performance, with a sold-out concert in Beijing.[42] As the volume of Korean cultural imports rapidly increased, China's State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television responded with a decision to restrict and limit the number of Korean TV dramas shown to Chinese audiences.[43]

My Sassy Girl (2001) was a major international breakthrough for Korean films. It became a box office hit across East Asia, and its DVD release also drew a large cult following across Southeast Asia and parts of South Asia. It also spawned a number of international remakes, including a Hollywood remake and several Asian film remakes, as well as television adaptations and a sequel.[44][45]

However, several other countries in Asia were also experiencing a growth in the popularity of Korean dramas and pop songs. In 2000 in the Indian state of Manipur, where Bollywood movies were banned by separatists, consumers gradually turned their attention to Korean entertainment.[46] According to Agence France-Presse, Korean phrases were commonly heard in the schoolyards and street markets of Manipur.[47] Many Korean dramas and films were smuggled into Manipur from neighbouring Burma, in the form of CDs and DVDs.[46] Popularity in Korean products subsequently spread to other parts of Northeast India including Assam, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Mizoram, and Nagaland.[48]

In 2002, following the reversal of a decades-long embargo on media between the two countries, BoA's album Listen to My Heart became the first album by a Korean musician to sell a million copies in Japan.[49][50] Following this success, other K-pop artists also ventured into the Japanese music industry as well.

On June 8, 2001, Shinhwa's fourth album Hey, Come On! was released to success over Asia. The group became particularly popular in China and Taiwan.

In 2002, Winter Sonata (produced by Korean channel KBS2) became the first drama to equal the success of Meteor Garden, attracting a cult following in Asia. Sales of merchandise, including DVD sets and novels, surpassed US$3.5 million in Japan.[51] This drama marked the initial entrance of the Korean Wave in Japan.[52][53][54][55][56] In 2004, former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi noted that the male protagonist of the drama was "more popular than I am in Japan".[57] Other Korean dramas released in subsequent years such as Dae Jang Geum (2003) and Full House (2004) saw comparable levels of success.[58]

Since 2002, television programming trends in Asia began to undergo changes as series from both South Korea and Taiwan began to fill prime time slots previously reserved for Hollywood movies.[59]

The breakthrough for K-pop came with the debuts of TVXQ (2003), SS501 (2005), Super Junior (2005), the early success of BIGBANG (2007–present), and other artists hailed by a BBC reporter as "household names in much of Asia."[60] In 2003, South Korean girl group Baby V.O.X. released a Chinese single entitled "I'm Still Loving You" and topped various music charts in China, making a huge fanbase there. Both "I'm Still Loving You" and their subsequent Korean single "What Should I Do" also charted in Thailand.

Aspects of traditional and contemporary Korean culture, clockwise from top left: a Samsung Galaxy Tab; women performing traditional dance Taepyeongmu; Bibimbap, a Korean rice dish; K-pop idol Junsu; the K-pop boyband Super Junior; children in traditional Hanbok costume

Meanwhile, the popularity of Korean television continued to spread across the continent. Reports about Asian women travelling to South Korea to find love inspired by Korean romance dramas began to appear in the media, including in the Washington Post.[61]

In Nepal, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka, Korean dramas began to increasingly take up airtime on TV channels in these countries with Winter Sonata and Full House credited to igniting the interest in Korean pop culture in these countries. Korean fashion and hairstyles became trendy amongst youth in Nepal and led to a Korean language course boom in the country which has persisted to today. Korean cuisine experienced a surge of popularity in Nepal with more Korean eateries opening in the country throughout the early to mid 2000s. Similarly, Korean cuisine also became popular in Sri Lanka and Bhutan with Korean restaurants opening to satisfy the demand in these countries.[62][63][64][65]

By the late 2000s, many Taiwanese musicians had been superseded by their K-pop counterparts, and although a small number of groups such as F4 and Fahrenheit continued to maintain fan bases in Asia.

2010–present: Korean wave globally[edit]

K-pop songs being played by the South Korean conglomerate LG at the IFA trade exhibition in Germany in 2011

In the United States, Korean culture has spread outwards from Korean American communities, most notably those in Los Angeles and New York City.[66] The overall reception of Korean culture in the United States is rather lukewarm compared to that in Asia; Mnet Media said that its employees' attempt to pitch over 300 K-pop music videos to American producers and record labels was unsuccessful, there being "relationships so they would be courteous, but it was not a serious conversation."[67] Attempted US debuts by artists such as BoA and Se7en failed to gain traction, being labelled by a CNN reporter as "complete flops."[68]

Psy performs "Gangnam Style" in Sydney, Australia in 2013.

That said, Korean culture products (series such as Jumong being particularly well received by audiences in the Muslim world) have seen increasing popularity, with a dedicated and growing global fanbase,[69][70][71][72] particularly after Psy's video for "Gangnam Style" went viral in 2012–13 and was the first YouTube video to reach over a billion views.[73] YouTube has been a vital platform in the increasing international popularity of K-pop, overriding the reluctance of radio DJs to air foreign-language songs in reaching a global audience.[74] KCON, originally a one-day event dedicated to K-Pop in Irvine, California in 2012, has now expanded into eight countries spanning over multiple days and locations.[75][76]

K-pop fans outside the Korean Cultural Centre in Warsaw holding up a South Korean-Polish flag, as well as banners for Korean boybands MBLAQ, B1A4, and 2PM in 2011

The Korean wave has developed into the foreign diplomacy of South Korea, used as a means to promote Korean culture to foreign countries.[77] South Korea's Former President Park Geun-hye intended to allocate at least 2 percent of the national budget to further develop South Korea's cultural industry and to seek more cultural exchanges with North Korea.[78] Cuisine and cosmetic products are two of the most recognizable features of South Korean culture overseas.[79][80][81] Among the largest beauty companies in the Asia-Pacific region are Amorepacific and LG Household & Health Care.[82] The cultural boom has also propelled tourism growth, South Korea welcoming over 12 million visitors in 2013, with 6 million tourists from China alone.[83]

Korean skincare products have gained widespread popularity in Asia. Amorepacific and LG Household & Health Care have become the top two beauty companies in the Asia-Pacific region.[82] China has become the largest market for Korean cosmetics and account for 25% of China's cosmetic imports.[84] In Sri Lanka, European beauty products have largely been replaced in favour of Korean cosmetic and skincare products which have become popular because of their cheaper prices and their suitability for Asian skin.[85] Similarly, Korean products have become popular in Singapore because they meet the concerns of Asians and that they have been designed for Asian people.[86] The popularity of Kpop in Cambodia has also led to the influx of Korean beauty products into the Cambodian market.[87] Korean cosmetic and skincare products have also become popular in Thailand,[88] Malaysia,[89] and Japan[90] among other countries. Recent political issues between South Korea and China have led Amorepacific to look elsewhere and revamp its products in order to specifically target Muslim and darker-skinned women in Southeast Asia.[91] In 2017, Innisfree released a range of darker-toned cushions in order to match skin tones of Southeast Asian women.[92]

K-dramas and K-pop raised the awareness of Korean beauty products and brands which increased the demand among Indian women that lead to opening of many specialized e-commerce stores. As of 2020, Korean consumer labels are on high demand in India from food to cosmetics and toys apart from household electronics.[93][94] Indian music streaming services Gaana and JioSaavn confirmed increasing demand for K-pop. As per Spotify user streaming data, BTS is one of the Top 5 artist in India with a growing K-pop fan base that represant top 22% of the global listeners. Of all genre, K-pop has 25% share for newly-discovered artist category among 18 to 24 years age group of listeners. Demand for K-pop lead to Spotify promoting diverse set of K-pop artist during Fête de la Musique 2020 campaign apart from well known ones like BTS.[95][96][97][98]

Hallyu 2.0[edit]

"Hallyu 2.0" is the "New Korean wave" that began around 2007 as a result of South Korea taking advantage of 21st century digital technologies and social media.[99] The term Hallyu 2.0 was first used in August 2010 by Japanese media after Girl's Generation's successful showcase at Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo. The concept of Hallyu 2.0 rose in tandem with Web 2.0, which emphasizes user generated content and usability.[100] Hallyu 2.0 is larger in scope than the first Korean wave, and is also differentiated by the increased role and popularity of Korean pop music and other Korean exports like video games and animation. This in contrast to the importance of the Korean television drama during the first wave that was more geographically focused in East Asia.[101] However, at the center of Hallyu 2.0 are the social networking sites (SNS) and user-generated content (UGC) sites such as YouTube that enable fans across the world to interact with South Korean pop culture.[99] Overall, Hallyu 2.0 refers to different means (technology) to reach far beyond the Korean Peninsula and the continent of Asia.

Government policy in Hallyu 2.0[edit]

The success of South Korean cultural products throughout the beginning of the 21st century has led some governments in Asia passing measures to protect their own cultural industries. Japan, China, and Taiwan made specific efforts to stem the flow of Korean films and dramas into their countries, which caused those films and dramas to suffer in sales.[99] This necessitated Korea's finding new markets in which to export their cultural products. K-pop and Korean idols have been a core part of Hallyu 2.0 finding these new markets.[99]

Much Korean investment in arts and culture prior to 1993 focused on traditional forms of Korean culture that were essential to hold on to given the turbulence of the 20th century in Korean history.[99] After 1993, cultural commercialization became government policy as leaders saw the necessity of integrating culture and economy.[99] In 1999, the "Basic Law for Promoting Cultural Industries" was passed by the Korean government, establishing government support for "coproduction with foreign countries, marketing and advertising of Korean pop culture through broadcasting and the Internet, and the dissemination of domestic cultural products to foreign markets".[99] Establishing their clear and public support for cultural industries, however, caused antagonism in other Asian countries, which were, at the time, the primary market for Korea's cultural exports.[99] Therefore, indirect support had to be practiced. In 2008, the budget for the cultural industries sector increased, and the government introduced the "creative content industry", emphasizing K-pop and video games as important foreign exports.[99]

User-generated content/YouTube[edit]

Sun Lee, the head of music partnerships for Korea at YouTube, said, "It might have been impossible for K-pop to have worldwide popularity without YouTube's global platform"[102] Since 2012, views of the top 200 K-pop artists on YouTube have tripled. In 2016, 80% of the 24 billion views of videos by the top 200 K-pop artists came from outside of South Korea.[103] YouTube is essential to Hallyu 2.0, as it allows labels to deliver music videos and other K-pop related content to audiences abroad without going through television or other traditional media outlets.[102]

K-pop's relationship with YouTube began in 2009, when the "big three" record labels (SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment) partnered with the user-generated content site, after several failed attempts to break the American market between 2006 and 2008. This partnership proved itself effective in 2011, when YouTube metrics showed that the United States accounted for the heaviest concentration of K-pop views outside of Asia.[102]

YouTube has enabled fans to connect with K-pop through their own content, such as dance covers and reaction videos/channels.[104] Such channels include JREKML, a channel that has amassed over 1 million subscribers and consists mainly of K-pop reactions, skits, and vlogs. The creation of remakes helped "Gangnam Style" rise to world popularity. YouTube, and other social media platforms were instrumental as it allowed remakes to be created that adapted to the locality. This worked because it allowed the consumer to also become the producer, unlike before where adaptations to the local or regional culture would cost the original producer money.[105][106]

Hallyu Index[edit]

State-funded trade promotion organisations KOTRA and KOFICE publish together an annual index measuring the global reach of the Korean Wave in specific countries. The index is calculated by a combination of export data and public surveys. In 2017, public surveys were conducted across 16 countries.[107] The results shown below indicate that the period of high growth of the Korean wave has faded, with its popularity currently hovering in the middle. However, in all countries surveyed, except Japan, the Korean wave is growing.

Hallyu Index
Minority interest stage Diffusion stage Mainstream stage
Popularity Nations Popularity Nations Popularity Nations
Rapid growth Rapid growth Rapid growth
Medium growth  South Africa Medium growth










 United Arab Emirates

 United Kingdom

 United States

Medium growth  Malaysia



Decline Decline  China



Fan clubs[edit]

According to a 2011 survey conducted by the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the total number of active members of Hallyu fan clubs worldwide was estimated at 3.3 million, based on statistics published by official fan clubs in regions where there are Korean Cultural Centers.[108] In the same year, the Korea Tourism Organization surveyed 12,085 fans of Hallyu and concluded that most fans were young adults, over 90% were female, and most were fans of K-pop.[109] According to the Korea Foundation, in 2018 there were about 89 million fans of 'hallyu' around the world, and 1,843 fan clubs. The number of fans grew by 22% from the year before, which is largely attributed to the growing popularity of boy band BTS.[110] As of December 2019, there were 1,799 Hallyu fan clubs with 99.32 million fans, leading by K-pop followed by Korean dramas. According to The Korea Foundation, fans were based in Asia and Oceania at around 72 million, followed by 15 million in Europe and 12 million in the Americas.[22]

General search interest for the Korean boyband Super Junior among users from Peru, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, the United States and Italy between October–November 2012[111]
Year Country/
Number of
Hallyu fans
2012  Belarus 1,000 [112]
2012  Palestine 3,000 [113]
2012  Israel 5,000 [113]
2012  Peru 8,000 [114]
2012  Chile 20,000 [114]
2012  Russia 50,000 [115]
2012  Mexico 60,000 [116]
2011  France >100,000 [117]
2013  Turkey >150,000 [118]
Worldwide total
Year Fan clubs Members Source
2011 182 3.3 million [119]
2012 830 6.0 million [120]
2013 987 9.3 million [121]
2018 1,843 89.19 million [110]
2019 1,799 99.32 million [22]

Foreign relations[edit]

South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has been responsible for international advocacy of Korean culture. The South Korean government is involved in the organisation of concerts such as the annual K-Pop World Festival.[122]

East Asia[edit]


In the past decade or so, many Chinese officials have expressed positivity towards Korean media and entertainment, including former President Hu Jintao[123][124] and former Premier Wen Jiabao, who was quoted by Xinhua News Agency as saying: "Regarding the Hallyu phenomenon, the Chinese people, especially the youth, are particularly attracted to it and the Chinese government considers the Hallyu phenomenon to be a vital contribution towards mutual cultural exchanges flowing between China and South Korea."[125] The Massachusetts Institute of Technology released a report that states that China is South Korea's biggest export at $121 billion a year. Tourism between the two countries has increased as a result of the Korean Wave, with South Korea receiving a 27% increase of tourists from China (3.8 million people) in 2016.[126]

The Hallyu fever that once was connected to just entertainment is also starting to extend to a broader fetishism of Korean lifestyles. Culinary styles have been connected as well as the cultural exchanges are now able to encourage a broader exchange of lifestyles in China. South Korean cosmetics have also benefited from the Chinese market, such as in the case of the Amorepacific Corporation, which received a 44% boost in sales.[127]

A four-member research study led by Kang Myung-koo of Seoul National University published a controversial report in 2013 suggesting that Chinese viewers of Korean dramas were generally within the lower end of the education and income spectrum. This led to an angry response from Chinese fans of Korean television, with one group purchasing a full-page advertisement in the Chosun Ilbo to request an apology from the authors of the study.[128][129]

Since 2016, China virtually banned Korean Wave because South Korea agreed to establish Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) with the US. Chinese government regarded THAAD in South Korea as a potential risk to Chinese national security.[130] In order to defend its national security and achieve political purposes, Chinese government restricted the spread of Korean Wave and prevented South Korea from generating economic benefits from K-Wave. On August 4, 2016, the fan meeting of a popular Korean drama, Uncontrollably Fond, including the leading actor and actress, Kim Woobin and Bae Suzy, was cancelled without any notified reasons in Beijing.[131] In March 2017, Beijing issued a suspension of group tours to South Korea for Chinese travel agencies.[132] Many Korean entertainers and music bands, such as Lee Kwang Soo, BTS, EXO, and Girls Generation, faced difficulty performing in China.[133] On December 7, 2017, Yonhap reported that EXO Planet #3 concert which scheduled at Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre Stadium on December 17 has been abruptly cancelled by Chinese agency.[134] Despite of performances, Chinese people have a limited access to Korean music and drama on Chinese online sharing platforms. Korean media such as television shows and K-pop music videos were blocked from streaming in China.[135] This ban resulted in significant financial losses for the Korean entertainment industry with SM Entertainment down 18% since July 2016, a total of $150 million loss in market value.[136] YG Entertainment was down 32%, representing a $230 million loss.[136] Many Chinese-Korean television shows were put on hold as a result of THAAD.[137]

In November 2016, Chung Sye-kyun, then-Speaker of the Korean National Assembly was still positive about the spread of Korean Wave in China by announcing at the China Forum,"China has been and is the largest stage for hallyu, from the beginning of its popularity. The meaning of hallyu is to grow, even though the relationship between two countries has wavered due to THAAD."[138] In late 2017, the ban of Korean Wave appeared to be ending. Many large Chinese online video platforms, including iQiyi and Youku, restarted import of Korean dramas.[139] Chinese travel agencies also restarted group tours to South Korea. Dr. Pang Zhongying, an international and global affairs professor at the Ocean University of China said, "I think that relations are improving since President Moon’s visit to China, and travel is one example of that."[140]

In 2017, China started to lift their ban on the Korean Wave with bands such as Mamamoo making appearances on Chinese TV shows after the South Korean and Chinese governments announced an agreement regarding the THAAD dispute.[141]


The hanryu or kanryu wave in Japan is marked by the popularity of Korean TV series Winter Sonata in 2003 but likely emerged earlier with travel trends, food culture, the beauty industry, and World Cup soccer. Korean actor Bae Yong-Joon, also known in Japan as Yon-sama, was the early face of the wave, generating an economic burst as Japanese rushed out to buy the DVD of Winter Sonata, along with DVD players and related accessories. Early reporting of the popularity of Yon-sama included derogatory remarks about his female fan base in Japan, labeling them as sex-deprived "hags." However, the buying power of the Yon-sama fan base could not be ignored. Winter Sonata-themed beverages, foods, accessories, beauty products, and more sold out in Japan. Other Korean TV series soon followed, such as Jewel in the Palace. The Japanese fan base easily recognized and connected historical Chinese elements present in the shows, such as calligraphy, and imperial court intrigues. Japanese women also connected to the comforting, communicative character played by Yon-sama. Since the arrival of the Korean wave, Korean cuisine and products have increased in Japan. Shin-Okubo Station in Tokyo, known for its Korean neighborhood, has since become featured in Japanese tourist brochures.[12]

As a result of the Korean wave, some hoped political tensions between Japan and South Korean may improve. Some effort has been taken to avoid tense associations, resulting in the adoption of the term koria from English "Korea" rather than using the politically-charged term for Korea, kankoku. However, the overall effect has been limited.[12]

The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledges that the Korean Wave in Japan has led to discussion and mutual cultural exchange between the two countries,[142] with high-profile fans of Korean television including former First Lady Miyuki Hatoyama and current First Lady Akie Abe. However, remaining tension between Japan and Korea has led to instances of street protests involving hundreds of people, demonstrating against the popularity of Korean entertainment exports.[143] These protests were mostly organized by critics of Korean pop culture with the support of right-wing nationalists.[144]

Still, the Japanese Cabinet Office survey in 2004 found that favorable feelings towards South Korea rose to 56.7% a three-year record high in Japan.[12]

The worldwide popularity of Japanese movies, and pop music was overtaken by their Korean counterparts around 2010. This has been attributed to Korea's puritanical culture ("K-Pop groups look and act like real adults, whereas J-Pop outfits often emphasize adolescent cuteness"), K-Pop being continually influenced by American and European trends while J-Pop remains static, the Korean pop industry's control of talent recruitment and distribution, K-Pop's embrace of social media such as YouTube while J-Pop producers frequently shut down unauthorized clips on that site, and the "Japan Galapagos Syndrome" where many recent products are designed only for the Japanese domestic market while lacking worldwide appeal.[145][146]


In the early 1990s, Korean TV dramas first entered Taiwanese market but they didn't gain wide popularity.[147] Local broadcasting channel GTV began to broadcast Korean television dramas in the late 1990s. The shows were dubbed into Mandarin and were not marketed as foreign, which may have helped them to become widely popular during this time.[148] Since 2000, Korean pop culture was so popular that it even replaced the positions of long-lasting, favorable Japanese TV operas and Hong Kong pop music in Taiwan. It was a reverse in the Taiwanese entertainment market because Japan and Hong Kong maintained stable relationships with Taiwan for exchanging culture for hundreds of years, whereas South Korea was regarded negatively by Taiwanese, especially after South Korea readjusted the relationship with Taiwan and established a new relationship with mainland China since 1992.[149] The boom of Korean Wave changed Taiwanese perspectives on South Korea and promoted the relationship between Taiwan and South Korea. Taiwanese TV stations gradually imported Korean TV series, such as Dae Jang Geum, one of the most famous series.[150] The production of Taiwanese TV dramas has been influenced by Korean dramas. Besides Korean dramas, Korean pop music has also gained public attention in Taiwan. In July, 2018, Taiwan News reported that Korean pop music was getting even more popular in Taiwan by holding seven K-Pop concerts within two months in Taipei, including live concerts by Zion.T, and Wanna One.[151]

South Asia[edit]


During 1990's after the economic liberalization in India when investment from South Korean Chaebols and their small and medium-sized enterprises started coming in, Indians got the first glimpse of Korean wave with the rising interest in Korean language education and Korean studies. From the year 2002 to 2005, K-dramas became one of the central theme of Korean Week celebration held in Jawaharlal Nehru University, University of Delhi, University of Calcutta and University of Madras where students of various theatre groups can interact directly with the Korean directors. In 2006 as per cultural exchange, South Korean delegation visited India to spread Korean wave that established India-Korea Cultural Centre (InKo Centre) which contributed in increasing the cultural exchange between the two nations that mainly work in the field of language, performance and visual arts. InKo Centre brings various K-pop artists as judge for India leg of K-Pop World Festival.[152] The same year K-dramas like Emperor of the Sea and Dae Jang Geum were introduced by public broadcaster Doordarshan in the month of July and September. In 2007, Chongdong theater group performed in India and co-hosted jointly by South Korean Embassy in India and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) that received jam-packed auditorium and cheering crowd.[153][154] The first Korea-India Music Festival was held in Kohima during 2008 under joint partnership with State Government of Nagaland and Republic of Korea while the annual Hornbill Festival in 2009 featured K-pop singers and food to promote Korean wave.[155] In 2001, a Korean delegation which included the North Korean ambassador to India, inaugurated a memorial dedicated to Heo Hwang-ok in Ayodhya that lead to Sister City Agreement with Gimhae. A series called Kim Su-ro, The Iron King was also made and telecast on Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) in 2010.[156][157]

The Korean Cultural Centre India (KCCI) wanted to showcase Korean popular culture started K-pop contest in August 2012 that later helped India being represented in 2016 K-Pop World Festival.[158] The Consul-General of the Republic of Korea along with Dorama Club Chennai started quizzes on Hallyu while also organizing K-pop dance competitions and imparting free Korean language lessons. KCCI found that between 2014 to 2017 the viewership of Korean drama almost doubled in India. The rise of Korean shows in popularity index is also due to remake of many Korean scripts by the Bollywood.[159] From year 2013 onward, KCCI with the help of Arirang TV and KBS World from Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) started working to bridge the cultural gap between Republic of Korea and India that lead to the exposure of young Indians to Korean popular culture, Taekwondo classes and Korean language which helped in the exponential growth of Korean wave in India.[160][161] In 2017 as part of improving bilateral ties, South Korean embassy along with senior level diplomats and the Consul-General of Korea organized Korean Musical Night along with popular Korean musical play called Chef in Kolkata to introduce various aspects of Korean popular culture like music, dance, drama, movies, food, fashion and cosmetics to increase the awareness of Korean wave among the professor and student community of various schools and universities.[162][163] InKo Centre for Indian and Korean dialogue sponsored the first successful K-Beauty Conference in India which was hosted at Phoenix MarketCity, Chennai on 20 September 2018 to highlight the growing interest in Korean and Asian culture.[164]

The International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) also helped popularize Korean cinema in India due to filmmakers such as Park Chan-wook, Kim Ji-Woon and Kim Ki-Duk who were pushing the boundaries of film-making.[165] In 2018, the first lady Kim Jung-sook attended the India leg of Changwon K-Pop World Festival organized by Government of South Korea.[166] As per King Sejong Institute, penetration of Korean wave increased uptake of Korean language classes while students are also opting for Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) since many South Korean Chaebols are now operating in India.[167][168] India-Korea Center and Goodwill Envoy for Culture and Diplomacy of the Republic of Korea in coordination with Korean Art International Exchange Association and Anguk Zen Center donated 100,000 health masks for free distribution during Covid-19 pandemic in India.[169] To heal the lock-down fatigue among Indian population due to Covid-19, KCCI and South Korean consulate in Chennai started outreach programme with monthly themes throughout 2020 that included Korean drama, Korean food, K-pop and Korean films in association with Indo-Cine Appreciation Foundation.[170] KCCI organized quiz competition in 2020 that attracted 10,000 school students in Mumbai on topics ranging from Korean history and culture.[171] To increase contact between Korean and Indian entertainment industry, Kiwa Enterprise is helping local singing and dancing groups interested in K-pop genre to showcase their talent in events like the Asia New Star Model Festival - Face of India in association with Dada Phalke International Film Festival.[172]

Younger Indians are showing particular affinity to Korean wave and are able to absorb it without much difficulty which some attribute to cultural similarities found in habit, behavior, manners, food, words and their syllables.[173][174] As per the recommendation from KCCI along with the South Korean embassy, Ministry of Education included Korean language as part of second language study for students in National Education Policy 2020.[175] COVID-19 pandemic helped Korean wave breakthrough into Indian market which was till now mainly dominated by English speaking Western pop culture. From YouTube, JioSaavn to Spotify, all steaming platforms are improving their K-pop library due to user interest. Weverse and Viki, both confirmed increasing usage from India during the month of March to September 2020.[176] Korean wave broke the mainstream narrative in India about globalization and modernity solely linked to westernization, while also helped breaking stereotypes associated with East Asia. As talks of Asian Century increased in economic, political circles and among the think-tanks, inter-Asian dialogue became more important between Republic of Korea and India.[177][178][179][180][181]

Middle East & North Africa[edit]

Since the mid-2000s, Israel, Iran, Morocco and Egypt have become major consumers of Korean culture.[182][183] Following the success of Korean dramas in the Middle East & North Africa, the Korean Overseas Information Service made Winter Sonata available with Arabic subtitles on several state-run Egyptian television networks. According to Youna Kim (2007), "The broadcast was part of the government’s efforts to improve the image of South Korea in the Middle East, where there is little understanding and exposure towards Korean culture" (p. 31).[184] The New York Times reported that the intent behind this was to contribute towards positive relations between Arab & Berber audiences and South Korean soldiers stationed in northern Iraq.[185]

MBC4 (Middle East Broadcasting Channel) played a major role in increasing the Korean wave's popularity in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa). This broadcasting channel hosted a series of Korean drama starting 2013 such as "Boys Over Flowers" (أيام الزهور), "You're Beautiful" (أنت جميلة), "Dream High" (حلم الشباب ), "Coffee Prince" ( مقهى الأمير). Some Arab countries opposed Korean shows (dramas and reality TV shows) because of the fear they would lead to Islamic youth to abandon their traditions wholesale in order to adopt Western modernity wholesale.[186] However, this did not stop the Korean industries from exporting more Korean Dramas to the Arab world in the following years such as "The Heirs" ( الورثة).

The popularity of Korean dramas in the MENA region-and its continuous growth- originates from the content of these dramas. As the majority of the plots of Korean dramas focus on social issues (love between different social classes or family problems for instance),[187] the Arab audiences fit themselves and could relate to the Korean socio-cultural values as they seem appealing to them. So Korean dramas play the role of an equilibrium point where two, somehow, different cultures could create a new cultural space where these two cultures could meet.


In 2006, the Korean drama My Lovely Sam Soon was aired on Israeli cable channel Viva. Despite a lukewarm response, there followed a surge in interest in Korean television shows, and a further thirty Korean dramas were broadcast on the same channel.[188]

In 2008, a Korean language course was launched at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, offering lectures on Korean history, politics, and culture.[113]

It is hoped by some commentators that the surging popularity of Korean culture across Israel and Palestine[189] may serve as a bridge over the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.[113] The Hebrew University of Jerusalem reported that some Israeli and Palestinian K-pop fans see themselves as "cultural missionaries" and actively introduce K-pop to their friends and relatives, further spreading the Korean Wave within their communities.[190][191][192][193]


Autumn in My Heart, one of the earliest Korean dramas brought over to the Middle East, was made available for viewing after five months of "persistent negotiations" between the South Korean embassy and an Egyptian state-run broadcasting company. Shortly after the series ended, the embassy reported that it had received over 400 phone calls and love letters from fans from all over the country.[194] According to the secretary of the South Korean embassy in Cairo Lee Ki-seok, Korea's involvement in the Iraq War had significantly undermined its reputation among Egyptians, but the screening of Autumn in My Heart proved "extremely effective" in reversing negative attitudes.[195]


South Korean actor Song Il-gook at a press conference in Tehran on August 18, 2009[196]

Iran's state broadcaster, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), aired several Korean dramas during prime time slots in recent years, with this decision attributed by some to their Confucian values of respect for others, which are "closely aligned to Islamic culture",[197] while in contrast, Western productions often fail to satisfy the criteria set by Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.[198] In October 2012, the Tehran Times reported that IRIB representatives visited South Korea to visit filming locations in an effort to strengthen "cultural affinities" between the two countries and to seek avenues for further cooperation between KBS and IRIB.[199][200]

According to Reuters, until recently audiences in Iran have had little choice in broadcast material and thus programs that are aired by IRIB often attain higher viewership ratings in Iran than in South Korea; for example, the most popular episodes of Jumong attracted over 90% of Iranian audience (compared to 40% in South Korea), propelling its lead actor Song Il-gook to superstar status in Iran.[196]

Researchers from both countries have recently studied the cultural exchanges between Silla (one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea) and the Persian Empire. The Korea Times reported that the two cultures may have been similar 1,200 years ago.[201]

List of Korean TV Series aired by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB)
of broadcast
TV series TV channel Episodes Television
2006–07 Dae Jang Geum Channel 2 54 86% [202]
2007–08 Emperor of the Sea Channel 3 51
2008 Thank You Channel 5 16
2008–09 Jumong Channel 3 81 80–90% [72]
2009 Behind the White Tower Channel 5 20
2010 Yi San Eshragh TV 77
2010-11 The Kingdom of the Winds Channel 3 36
2011 The Return of Iljimae Channel 3 24
2012 Dong Yi Channel 3 60 [199]
2014 Hong Gil-dong Namasyesh TV 24
2014 Kim Su-ro, The Iron King Channel 3 32
2014 Brain Channel 5 20
2015 Faith Namasyesh TV 24
2015 Moon Embracing the Sun Channel 3 22
2015 Fermentation Family Namasyesh TV 24
2015 Gyebaek Namasyesh TV 36
2015 Good Doctor Channel 2 20
2016 Pasta Namasyesh TV 20
2016 The King's Daughter, Soo Baek-Hyang Channel Tehran 20
2016 The Fugitive of Joseon IRIB TV3 20
2016 The King's Dream Namasyesh TV 75


In the early 2000s, Korean dramas were aired for South Korean troops stationed in northern Iraq as part of coalition forces led by the United States during the Iraq War. With the end of the war and the subsequent withdrawal of South Korean military personnel from the country, efforts were made to expand availability of K-dramas to the ordinary citizens of Iraq.[203]

In 2012, the Korean drama Hur Jun reportedly attained a viewership of over 90% in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.[203] Its lead actor Jun Kwang-ryul was invited by the federal government of Iraq to visit the city of Sulaymaniyah in Kurdistan, at the special request of the country's First Lady, Hero Ibrahim Ahmed.[203]


In December 2013, Morocco's Marrakech International Film Festival, the largest film event in the Middle East and Africa, opened with Korean percussion music samulnori performance and screened more than 40 Korean movies, including Painted Fire (취화선) by director Im Kwon-Taek.[204] The same festival's top prize, the Golden Star, went to the Korean movie Hang Gong-Ju by Lee Su-Jin.

On August 31, 2014, the "Moroccan fans of Korea" association invited the Korean-American K-pop singer Eric Nam to Rabat, Morocco to take part in the finals for the regional competition for KBS's K-pop world festival, where participants competed in dancing and singing.[citation needed]



In March 2012, former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard visited South Korea's Yonsei University, where she acknowledged that her country has "caught" the Korean Wave that is "reaching all the way to our shores."[205]

New Zealand[edit]

In November 2012, New Zealand's Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Andrea Smith, delivered a key note address to South Korean diplomats at the University of Auckland, where she asserted that the Korean Wave is becoming "part of the Kiwi lifestyle" and added that "there is now a 4,000 strong association of K-pop followers in New Zealand."[206]



The first Korean drama in Romania was aired on TVR in August 2009, and in the following month it became the third most popular television program in the country.[207] Since then, Korean dramas have seen high ratings and further success.[207][208]


In February 2012, JYJ member Jaejoong was invited by the South Korean Embassy in Ankara to hold an autograph session at Ankara University.[209] Before departing for concerts in South America, Jaejoong also attended a state dinner with the presidents of South Korea (Lee Myung-bak) and Turkey (Abdullah Gül).[210]


The French Foreign Ministry acknowledges the status of Hallyu as a global phenomenon that is characterized by the "growing worldwide success of Korean popular culture".[211]


The German Foreign Office has confirmed that "Korean entertainment (Hallyu, telenovelas, K-pop bands, etc.) is currently enjoying great popularity and success in Asia and beyond."[212]

United Kingdom[edit]

In November 2012, the British Minister of State for the Foreign Office, Hugo Swire, held a meeting with South Korean diplomats at the House of Lords, where he affirmed that Korean music had gone "global".[213]

North America[edit]


Korean music and drama is popular in Canada, not just due to Korean communities, but as several K-Pop idols had grown up in Canada.[214][215]

United States[edit]

During a state visit to South Korea in March 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama remarked that the Digital Age has enabled people from different cultures to connect across borders.[216]

During a bilateral meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye at the White House in May 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama cited "Gangnam Style" as an example of how people around the world are being "swept up by Korean culture – the Korean Wave."[217] In August 2013, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also affirmed that the Korean Wave "spreads Korean culture to countries near and far."[218]

United Nations[edit]

On October 30, 2012, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered a speech in front of the National Assembly of South Korea where he noted how Korean culture and the Hallyu-wave is "making its mark on the world".[219]



The Korean Wave has spread the influence of aspects of Korean culture including fashion, music, television programs and formats, cosmetics, games, cuisine, manhwa and beauty standards.[220][221][222] In China, many broadcasters have taken influences from Korean entertainment programs such as Running Man; in 2014 SBS announced the Chinese version of this program, Hurry Up, Brother, which was a major hit as an example of a unique category of programs known as 'urban action varieties'.[223][224] Korean media has also been influential throughout Asia in terms of beauty standards. In Taiwan, where the drama Dae Jang Geum was extremely popular, some fans reportedly underwent cosmetic surgery to look similar to lead actress Lee Young-ae.[225]

K-pop helped in increasing cultural export with Amorepacific Corporation became the first South Korea cosmetics company to enter India setting shop near New Delhi in 2013 due to rising awareness and acceptance of Korean beauty products among Indian working women within the age group of 25 to 40 years. As per e-commerce platform Nykaa, Innisfree from Amorepacific and The Face Shop became the Top 10 beauty brands on demand that helped 15% increase in sales and captured 8% of all skin care product sales.[226] They are seen as natural and chemical-free alternative to many established Western brands. By 2014, other Indian e-commerce websites such as Flipkart, Jabong and Myntra also started selling K-beauty products due to increasing sales revenue while many Korean Expatriate also started their own specialized online services like Korikart, KoreanShop by Brics India Trade to capture the growing market demand for all things Korean. Amazon confirmed rising sales of Korean beauty products beyond tier-1 metro cities. After Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between India and South Korea, many Korean brands like The Face Shop came in with the help of KOTRA[227][228] Demand from retail segment pushed more brands like Laneige, Belif, and Cosrx launched exclusively in India from 2019 which briefly decreased due to Covid-19 pandemic but later labels like Accoje and Aroma Yong resumed product launches for Indian market from July, 2020.[229]

Staples like Kimchi, Korean noodles and Soju became popular with younger generation watching Korean dramas.[230][231] After 2015 and Gangnam Style popularity, K-pop genre and Korean cultural content have become mainstream especially in Indian cities with high acceptance rate among women.[232] With the spread of Korean music, more people are now eager to learn Korean language, enjoy Korean food and visit South Korea.[233] Social commerce on Instagram flourished with Korean beauty products. Like Chinese, spicy Korean dishes started appealing to the Indian taste buds. Korean literature became popular among the millennials and post-millennial demographic due to Literature Translation Institute of Korea (LTI Korea) and quarterly magazine Korean Literature Now.[234] As part of brand engagement strategy in India, Kia Motors collaborated with K-pop girl brand BLACKPINK to increase car sales among young customers while at the same time help in diffusion of authentic K-Pop culture.[235] Duolingo reported constant rise of Korean learners in India from mere 11% during October 2019 to February 2020 that shot up to 256% from March to October 2020.[236] According to Korean Cultural Center, Korean language is the second most widely spoken foreign language in India as of 2020.[237]

Political and economic[edit]

In 2012, a poll conducted by the BBC revealed that public opinion of South Korea had been improving every year since data began to be collected in 2009. In countries such as China, France, India and Russia public opinion of South Korea turned from "slightly negative" to "generally positive".[238] This increase in 'soft power' corresponded with a surge in exports of US$4.3 billion in 2011.[239] For views on South Korea, Korean Culture and Information Service (KCIS) conducted a survey among 16 countries with 8000 participants during 2018-19 in which Russia gave the most positive public feedback at 94.8%, followed by India with 91.8% and Brazil with 91.6% respectively.[240]

Korean producers have capitalised on high demand in Asia due to the popularity of Korean media, which enabled KBS to sell its 2006 drama Spring Waltz to eight Asian countries during its pre-production stage in 2004.[24]

The following data is based on government statistics:

2008[241] 2009[242] 2010[243] 2011[243] 2012[244]
Total value of cultural
exports (in USD billions)
1.8 2.6 3.2 4.3 5.02

The following data is from the Korea Creative Contents Agency (part of the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism) for the first quarter of the 2012 fiscal year:

Creative Industry Sector Total revenue (KRW) Exports (KRW)
Animation[245] 135.5 billion ₩35.2 billion
Broadcasting[246] ₩213.5 billion ₩2.2 billion
Cartoon[247] ₩183.2 billion ₩4.7 billion
Character[245] ₩1882.9 billion ₩111.6 billion
Gaming[248] ₩2412.5 billion ₩662.5 billion
Knowledge/Information[249] ₩2123.1 billion ₩105.2 billion
Motion Picture[250] ₩903.8 billion ₩15.6 billion
Music[251] ₩997.3 billion ₩48.5 billion
Publishing[247] ₩5284.6 billion ₩65 billion

Relations with North Korea[edit]

According to various reports, the spread of Hallyu to North Korea has occurred through CDs, DVDs, and USB sticks smuggled from China. Some North Koreans living near the Demilitarized Zone have also been illegally tuning into South Korean radio stations.

In North Korea, the term associated with the Korean wave is 남조선 바람 namjoseon baram (literally "South Korean wind").[252] The ninth President of South Korea, Roh Moo-hyun, acknowledged the possible use of Hallyu as a tool to help to reunify the Korean Peninsula.[253] In May 2007 the television series Hwang Jini, adapted from a novel by a North Korean author, became the first South Korean production to be made available for public viewing in North Korea.[254]

With the end of the Roh Moo-hyun administration's Sunshine Policy towards North Korea and a deterioration of North-South relations, however, Hallyu media was quickly restrained by North Korean authorities, although a report published by Radio Free Asia (a non-profit radio network funded by the U.S. federal government) suggested that the Korean Wave "may already have taken a strong hold in the isolated Stalinist state".[255]

In 2010, researchers from the Korea Institute for National Unification surveyed 33 North Korean defectors and found that the impact of shows such as Winter Sonata had played a significant role in shaping the decision of the defectors to flee to the South. It was further revealed that a small number of people living close to the Korean Demilitarized Zone have been tampering with their television sets in order to receive signals from South Korean broadcast stations in the vicinity, while CDs and DVDs smuggled across the border with China also increased the reach of South Korean popular culture in the North.[253] In 2012, the Institute surveyed a larger group of 100 North Korean defectors. According to this research, South Korean media was prevalent within the North Korean elite. It also affirmed that North Koreans living close to the border with China had the highest degree of access to South Korean entertainment, as opposed to other areas of the country.[256] Notels, Chinese-made portable media players that have been popular in North Korea since 2005, have been credited with contributing to the spread of the Hallyu wave in the Northern country.[257][258]

In October 2012, the Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, gave a speech to the Korean People's Army in which he vowed to "extend the fight against the enemy's ideological and cultural infiltration".[259] A study conducted earlier that year by an international group commissioned by the U.S. State Department came to the conclusion that North Korea was "increasingly anxious" to keep the flow of information at bay, but had little ability to control it, as there was "substantial demand" for movies and television programs from the South as well as many "intensely entrepreneurial" smugglers from the Chinese side of the border willing to fulfill the demand.[259]

...My happiest moments when I was in North Korea were watching South Korean TV shows. I felt like I was living in that same world as those actors on the show.
—A North Korean defector interviewed by Human Rights Watch[260]

In February 2013, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported that Psy's 2012 single "Gangnam Style" had "deeply permeated North Korea", after a mission group had disseminated K-pop CDs and other cultural goods across the China–North Korea border.[261]

On May 15, 2013, the NGO Human Rights Watch confirmed that "entertainment shows from South Korea are particularly popular and have served to undermine the North Korean government's negative portrayals of South Korea".[260]


South Korea's tourism industry has been greatly influenced by the increasing popularity of its media. According to the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), monthly tourist numbers have increased from 311,883 in March 1996[262] to 1,389,399 in March 2016.[263]

The Korean Tourism Organisation recognises K-pop and other aspects of the Korean Wave as pull factors for tourists,[264] and launched a campaign in 2014 entitled "Imagine your Korea", which highlighted Korean entertainment as an important part of tourism.[265][266] According to a KTO survey of 3,775 K-pop fans in France, 9 in 10 said they wished to visit Korea, while more than 75 percent answered that they were actually planning to go.[267] In 2012, Korean entertainment agency S.M. Entertainment expanded into the travel sector, providing travel packages for those wanting to travel to Korea to attend concerts of artists signed under its label.[267]

Many fans of Korean television dramas are also motivated to travel to Korea,[268] sometimes to visit filming locations such as Nami Island, where Winter Sonata was shot and where there were over 270,000 visitors in 2005, or Dae Jang Geum Theme Park.[264] The majority of these tourists are female.[269] K-drama actors such as Kim Soo-hyun have appeared in KTO promotional materials.[270] As per data from Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), the number of outbound Indian tourists visiting South Korea registered a growth of almost 36% since December 2017 to December 2019.[271]


The Korean Wave has also been met with backlash and anti-Korean sentiment in countries such as Japan, Taiwan, and especially China.[272] Existing negative attitudes towards Korean culture may be rooted in nationalism or historical conflicts.[143][273]

In China, producer Zhang Kuo Li described the Korean Wave as a "cultural invasion" and advised Chinese people to reject Korean exports.[274]

In Japan, an anti-Korean comic, Manga Kenkanryu ("Hating the Korean Wave") was published on July 26, 2005, and became a No. 1 bestseller on the Amazon Japan site. On August 8, 2011, Japanese actor Sousuke Takaoka openly showed his dislike for the Korean Wave on Twitter, which triggered an Internet movement to boycott Korean programs on Japanese television.[275] Anti-Korean sentiment also surfaced when Kim Tae-hee, a Korean actress, was selected to be on a Japanese soap opera in 2011; since she had been an activist in the Liancourt Rocks dispute for the Dokdo movement in Korea, some Japanese people were enraged that she would be on the Japanese TV show. There was a protest against Kim Tae-hee in Japan, which later turned into a protest against the Korean Wave. According to a Korea Times article posted in February 2014, "Experts and observers in Korea and Japan say while attendance at the rallies is still small and such extreme actions are far from entering the mainstream of Japanese politics, the hostile demonstrations have grown in size and frequency in recent months."[276]

The Korean entertainment industry has also been criticised for its methods and links to corruption, as reported by Al Jazeera in February 2012.[277]

In the West, some commentators noted similarities between the South Korean Ministry of Culture's support of the Korean Wave and the CIA's involvement in the Cultural Cold War with the former Soviet Union. According to The Quietus magazine, suspicion of hallyu as a venture sponsored by the South Korean government to strengthen its political influence bears "a whiff of the old Victorian fear of Yellow Peril".[278]

The South Korean entertainment industry has been faced with claims of mistreatment towards its musical artists. This issue came to a head when popular boy group TVXQ brought their management company to court over allegations of mistreatment. The artists claimed they had not been paid what they were owed and that their 13-year contracts were far too long. While the court did rule in their favor, allegations of mistreatment of artists are still rampant.[279][280][281][282]

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ Ravina, Mark (2009). "Introduction: Conceptualizing the Korean Wave". Southeast Review of Asian Studies.
  3. ^ Kim, Ju Young (2007). "Rethinking media flow under globalisation: rising Korean wave and Korean TV and film policy since 1980s". University of Warwick Publications.
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