Korean Wave

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Korean Wave
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 韓流
Simplified Chinese 韩流
Korean name
Japanese name
Kanji 韓流
Nepali name
Nepali कोरियाली लहर
Kōriyālī lahara
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese 韓流 Hàn lưu

The Korean Wave[2] (Hangul한류; hanja韓流; RRHallyu[1]; MRHallyu)—or "Hánliú" (韓流), which literally means "flow of Korea"[3][4]—a is a neologism referring to the increase in the popularity of South Korean culture since the late 1990s.

First driven by the spread of K-dramas televised across East, South and Southeast Asia during its initial stages, the Korean Wave evolved from a regional development into a global phenomenon due to the proliferation of Korean pop (K-pop) music videos on YouTube.[5] Currently, the spread of the Korean Wave to other regions of the world is most visibly seen among teenagers and young adults in Commonwealth of Independent States, Latin America, Western Asia, North Africa, Southern Africa, Eastern Europe[6][7][8] and immigrant enclaves of the Western world.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16]

At the turn of the 21st century, South Korea is emerging as a major exporter of popular culture, rivaling many Western nations such as the United States and the United Kingdom.[17] The Economist has dubbed Korean pop culture as "Asia’s foremost trendsetter".[18] The growing acceptance and popularity of South Korean pop culture as a valid form of entertainment in many parts of the world has prompted the government of South Korea to use the Korean Wave as a tool for soft power as well as facilitating its entertainment and creative sector to increase exports to enhance the country's burgeoning economy as well as fulfilling the nations ambitious goal of becoming the world's leading pop culture exporter, a niche that the United States has cornered for nearly a century.[19] The South Korean government has also made a commitment by earmarking 1% of its national budget towards spending in the form of subsidies and low-interest loans by fostering its cultural industries through the launch of creative agencies to promote and expand K-pop exports to drive creative and economic growth, and setting up more cultural departments at universities to nurture a talented workforce needed to support its burgeoning entertainment and creative sector.[19][20]

As Korean pop culture becomes an increasingly globalized phenomenon, its surging popularity in many parts of the world has prompted South Korea to utilize its cultural and entertainment sector to access, tap and break into foreign entertainment markets to further enhance its thriving creative and entertainment sector as well as using its burgeoning pop cultural exports to further enhance the South Korean economy. Much of the success of the Korean Wave owes in part to tapping into social networking services and the video sharing platform YouTube. YouTube allows the leverage of the Korean entertainment industry's ability to secure a sizable overseas audience, where it has facilitated a noticeable rise in the global proliferation of its entertainment products on the video streaming site. With the Korean creative and entertainment sector tapping into social networks to facilitate the promotion, distribution, consumption of various forms of Korean entertainment, many forms of Korean entertainment, especially K-pop in particular, have experienced surging worldwide popularity outside of Asia since the mid 2000s.[5][19][20][21]

Ultimately, the South Korean government hopes that the acceptance of South Korean culture in foreign countries would be reciprocated by an embracement of foreign cultures among South Koreans, thus realizing the ideals of a bidirectional flow of culture, goods and ideas in order to achieve the following goals:


The Korean Wave, or Hanryu, is made up of two root words – han (韓) refers to a quality or state of being Korean while liu or ryu (流) means "flow".[25] Both words can be combined to form the compound word Hanryu (한류), usually romanized as Hallyu, which refers to "the flow and spread of Korea" and is translated into English as the Korean Wave.

However, as Jeongmee Kim, a researcher of Korean media, points out, the term Hallyu has been applied differently in the overseas market. Outside of Korea, Hallyu drama is used to describe Korean drama in general. However, in Korea Hallyu drama and Korean drama are different things. Hallyu only refers to the dramas that "have gained success in the Asian overseas market, are to be exported or contain hallyu stars who are internationally recognized so that it is anticipated that they will be eventually exported and prove successful."[26]

The Korean Wave is based on many different aspects of South Korean culture, such as:

Many commentators consider the cultural influences originating from the Korean Peninsula, mostly popular culture from South Korea but also traditional Korean culture in its entirety, as part of the Korean Wave. The American political scientist Joseph Nye interprets the Korean Wave as "the growing popularity of all things Korean, from fashion and film to music and cuisine."[27]

Historical background[edit]

After the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed in 1953, South Korea experienced a period of rapid economic growth known as the "Miracle on the Han River". Following Park Chung-hee's ascent to South Korean presidency in 1961, screen quotas were gradually introduced to the local market in order to restrict the number of foreign films shown in cinemas.[28] Previously, the South Korean film industry was unable to raise sufficient capital for the production of big-budget films. The introduction of these quotas was intended to prevent domestic films from having to compete with foreign blockbuster movies.[29]

In 1986, the Motion Pictures Exporters Association of America filed a complaint to the United States Senate regarding "unfair" regulations and quotas imposed by the South Korean government on all foreign films.[30] Facing pressure from the U.S. government, the South Korean government gradually lifted its restrictions and allowed major Hollywood studios to release their film productions. In 1988, Twentieth Century Fox became the first American film studio to set up a distribution office in South Korea. This was soon followed by Warner Brothers (1989), Columbia (1990), and Walt Disney (1993).[31]

By the year 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.[32] In the same year, the former South Korean president Kim Young-sam was shown a report by the Presidential Advisory Board suggesting that cultural and media production should be encouraged and subsidised as part of the country's strategic export industry.[33] 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 widely recognized in South Korea as a source of national pride, this comparison between the Hollywood sector and the South Korean automobile industry finally led to the government's acceptance and recognition of culture as an exportable commodity.[34]

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

As a result, numerous state research agencies were created to boost the nation's cultural industry. Although the term Hallyu was coined much later in 1999 by China's Beijing Youth Daily,[35] by the end of 1995, the foundation for the rise and spread of Korean culture was firmly laid out.[34] The earliest mention of using culture to enhance the nation's soft power echoes back to 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 writes:

...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, Excerpt from Baekbeomilji, March 1st, 1948


1994–99: Early beginnings[edit]

In 1994, South Korea's Ministry of Culture set up a cultural industry bureau to develop its media sector. Many large business conglomerates and chaebols were also encouraged to expand into the film and media sector. Three years later, the Asian financial crisis triggered a turning point in the development of the Korean Wave as major conglomerates suffered heavy losses, prompting a handful of them to shift their focus away from the manufacturing sector to the entertainment sector.[36] In 1999, the first big-budget film Shiri was released into cinemas and it became a major commercial success in South Korea, grossing over US$11 million,[37] and surpassing the local theatre attendance record set by the Hollywood blockbuster Titanic.[38]

According to The New York Times, South Korea's restriction of cultural imports from its former colonial ruler Japan was finally lifted in 1998. Worried about the impending "onslaught" of Japanese movies, comics and J-pop (Japanese pop), the South Korean Ministry of Culture made a request for a substantial budget increase which allowed it to set up 300 cultural industry departments in colleges and universities nationwide.[39]

This led to the development of an elaborate training and export system which the South Korean music industry now labels as "Cultural technology". The spread of Korean popular culture began with the broadcast of several Korean TV dramas 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".[35]

A few months later in February 2000, SM Entertainment's boy-band H.O.T. became the first modern K-pop music artist to give an overseas performance with a sold-out concert in the Chinese capital of Beijing.[40] 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.[41]

2000–09: Hallyu in Asia[edit]

Towards the turn of the 21st century, other countries in East Asia also experienced a growth in the popularity of Korean dramas and pop songs. In 2000, the K-Pop singer BoA took off her musical career with SM Entertainment and two years later, her album Listen to My Heart became the first album by a Korean musician to sell a million copies in Japan.[42]

In 2000 in the Indian state of Manipur where Bollywood movies were banned by separatists, consumers gradually turned their attention to Korean entertainment products.[43] According to Agence France-Presse, it is common for Korean language phrases such as "사랑해요", or sarang-haeyo (I love you), and "안녕하세요," or "annyeong-haseyo" (Hello), to be heard in everyday conversations in the schoolyards and street markets of Manipur.[11] Many Korean dramas and films were smuggled into Manipur from neighbouring Burma, in the form of CDs and DVDs.[43]

Despite the early success of the Hallyu-wave, there was an equally noticeable growth in cultural imports from Taiwan, which, like South Korea, is also one of the Four Asian Tigers. The spread of Taiwanese popular culture occurred slightly earlier, before the Hallyu-wave was known in Asia. In 2001, the Taiwanese drama "Meteor Garden" was released and soon attracted audiences from all over the region. It became the most-watched drama series in Philippine television history,[44] garnered over 10 million daily viewers in Manila alone,[45] and catapulted the male protagonists from the Taiwanese boyband F4 to overnight fame.[46] In 2002, a BBC journalist described the members of F4 as previously unknown actors who have "provoked hysteria across Asia" as a result of the success of "Meteor Garden".[47] The popularity of "Meteor Garden" (an adaptation of the Japanese manga series Boys Over Flowers) can be attributed to these two factors:

  • Emotional engagement of the audience with particular emphasis on forging an emotional bond with the protagonist
  • Explicit attention to female sexual desires — Departing from conventional dramas that tend to eroticize the female body, "Meteor Garden" markets the sexual attraction of the male actors (as played out by the Taiwanese idol group F4), giving women a certain freedom of sexual expression.[48][49]

As a result of the success of "Meteor Garden", its sequel "Meteor Garden II" was gradually released into many Asian countries as well, before the source material was later adapted by networks in Japan, South Korea, and China respectively. The Korean Broadcasting System's adaptation of the series was renamed "Boys Over Flowers" based on a much earlier Japanese manga series of the same name.

In 2001, Shinhwa's fourth album, Hey, Come On!, was released on June 8, 2001, debuting at #3 with the lead single "Hey, Come On!" rapidly climbing up the music charts. The album's release coincided with the rise of the Korean Wave, spreading the group's popularity overseas especially China and Taiwan. The popularity of Shinhwa's song make other boy band from Taiwan, Energy copy their song.

In 2002, the Korean Drama "Winter Sonata" became the first of its kind to equal the success of "Meteor Garden", attracting a cult following in Asia with sales of Winter Sonata-related products such as DVD sets and novels surpassing US$3.5 million in Japan.[50] In 2004, the former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi famously noted that the male protagonist of the drama "is more popular than I am in Japan".[51]

Other K-Dramas released in subsequent years, such as Full House and Dae Jang Geum, also saw comparable levels of success.[52]

Since 2002, television programming trends in Southeast Asia began to undergo a drastic change as TV series from South Korea and Taiwan filled the slot originally reserved for Hollywood movies during prime time.[44] Although dramas from South Korea gradually overtook those from Taiwan, much of Asia still had their eyes focused on Taiwanese bands such as F4, S.H.E and Fahrenheit. The breakthrough for K-pop came with the debut of TVXQ, SS501[53] and Super Junior, the latter hailed by the BBC as a household name in the region.[54]

Meanwhile, the popularity of Korean TV dramas continued to spread across the Asian continent, with many Korean male actors portrayed as sweet, romantic, sensitive but also "totally ripped" and good looking. Reports about Asian women travelling to South Korea to "find a Korean husband" began to appear in the media, including a Washington Post article about thousands of "smitten" Japanese women settling for "nothing less than a Seoul-mate",[55] a TIME magazine article reporting that teenagers from Tokyo to Taipei were swooning over South Korean music artists,[56] and a CNN article about thousands of Chinese women clamoring for a chance to see K-pop boy-band Super Junior, resulting in a stampede.[57]

..like many Asian youngsters, he considers
the trends of North America (and Japan)
to be insipid relics. "In Cambodia we watch
Korean dramas, listen to Korean music,
and take our fashion from South Korea,"
he says.

 —Interview with Hallyu-fans from Cambodia by
The Economist[58]

In 2003, the South Korean girl group Baby V.O.X. released a Chinese single entitled I'm Still Loving You and topped the various music charts in China, thus making a huge fanbase there. Their Korean single What Should I Do and Chinese single I'm Still Loving You charted on the music charts of Thailand and because of that, they were awarded as Asian Sensation by Channel V in Thailand.

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.[59][60][61][62]

By the late 2000s, many Taiwanese music acts could no longer catch up with their K-pop counterparts. Although a number of Taiwanese bands such as F4 and Fahrenheit continued to retain a small but loyal fan base in Asia, teenagers and young adults from all over the world were much more receptive to K-pop bands such as Big Bang and Super Junior, both of whom have managed to attract a huge number of fans from South America, parts of Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and to a smaller extent, the Western world (particularly among immigrants with an Asian, Middle Easten, African, or Eastern European background).

2009–10: First forays outside of Asia[edit]

Fuelled by the increased global interest in K-pop songs, several K-pop singers decided to expand their music careers by releasing English language-studio albums in the hope of reaching out to Western music markets. However, such attempts did not succeed.[63] Even more glaringly, the K-pop singers BoA and Se7en both returned to South Korea after their U.S. music careers struggled to gain traction. This prompted a freelance journalist writing for CNN to label them as "complete flops".[64]

In the United States, the spread of Korean pop culture remained confined to immigrant hubs where large numbers of Korean Americans reside, such as Los Angeles and New York City.[65] According to the chief operating officer of Mnet Media, its employees' attempt to pitch over 300 K-pop music videos to American music producers and record labels was met with a lukewarm response, as "there were relationships so they would be courteous, but it was not a serious conversation".[66] A music executive from Universal Music Group pointed out that K-pop is unlikely to succeed in the United States because music fans "would just be too critical about the lyrics and the acts' accents when singing in English."[67]

However, the spread of the Hallyu-wave continued to reach countries outside North America.[68] The TV series Jumong turned out to be particularly well received by audiences in the Muslim world, attaining over 80 percent viewership ratings in Iran.[69][70]

K-pop fans in Warsaw, Poland, holding up a S.Korean-Polish flag as well as banners of Korean boybands MBLAQ, B1A4 and 2PM

In Eastern Europe, the initial spread of Hallyu was also driven by TV series and dramas, with one screening of Jumong attracting over 800,000 viewers from Romania.[71] Other TV series aired by Romanian Television (the country's state-owned broadcaster) also consistently drew more than 500,000 viewers per episode.[72]

Over in the West, the spread of the Hallyu-wave caught on after the widespread proliferation of social media networks had found its place in everyday life.[73] This gave a huge push to the K-pop genre as the traditional reluctance of radio DJs to broadcast foreign language songs became irrelevant because the video sharing platform YouTube offered young consumers a convenient outlet to listen to any genre of music in any language they wished. As a CNN reporter who attended KCON 2012 in Irvine, California, pointed out: "If you stop anyone here and ask them how they found out about K-pop, they found it out on YouTube."[74]

2011–present: Hallyu goes global[edit]

By the end of 2011, the total number of YouTube views generated by K-pop videos had surpassed the 1 billion mark, tripling from 800 million in the previous year to more than 2.3 billion while spurred on by huge growths in Europe and the Middle East.[75] The globalization of Hallyu was accompanied by the following events:

Year Event Significance
2011 SM Town Live '10 in Paris, France First large scale K-pop concert attended by fans from all over Europe[76]
2011 MTV Europe Music Awards in Belfast, Northern Ireland First major European music award won by a South Korean act, Big Bang.[77]
2012 Barack Obama's speech at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies on March 26 First mention of Hallyu by the President of the United States (Full transcript at whitehouse.gov)
2012 Ban Ki-moon's speech at the National Assembly of South Korea on October 30 First mention of Hallyu by the Secretary-General of the United Nations (Full transcript at un.org)
2012–13 Commercial success of Psy's "Gangnam Style" First single by a South Korean recording artist to sell a million copies in the United Kingdom[78]
2013 The 5th Super Show concert tour in Buenos Aires, Santiago, São Paulo and Lima First large scale K-pop concert tour held across the South American continent.[79]
2013 Lunafly's concert at the Théâtre municipal de Tunis First K-pop concert in Tunisia and the largest in North Africa[80]

In February 2013, Peru's vice president Marisol Espinoza gave an interview with South Korea's Yonhap News Agency where she named K-pop as "one of the main factors that made Peruvian people wanting to get to know South Korea more". She also welcomed the Hallyu-wave to Peru.[81]

In Turkey, the total number of members registered by K-pop fan clubs across the country is estimated to have surpassed 100,000 for the first time,[82] with one particular fanclub drawing almost 13,000 fans.[83] According to a KBS reporter, a handful of Korean dramas were recently aired by four of Uzbekistan's state run TV channels on a daily basis.[84]

In the West, the number of Hallyu fans in France has also surpassed 100,000.[85] In the United States, the popularity of Korean pop culture is currently spreading from the Asian American minority group to larger ethnic groups such as White Americans and African Americans.[14][16][74]

On February 6, 2013, White House officials managing Michelle Obama's Twitter account revealed that they had gathered Napa cabbage from the South Lawn to "make kimchi in the kitchen."[86][87] As an editor of Esquire magazine pointed out, this was considered perplexing because it "skews so far from the White House's usual fare".[88] This came shortly after sales of Korean cuisine at the British supermarket chain Tesco more than doubled,[89] while Germany's nationwide public broadcaster Deutschlandradio acknowledged that Hallyu is "conquering the world,"[90] France's largest television network TF1 reported that the K-pop "phenomenon" is breaking out into the entire youth demographic,[91] and the British Minister of State from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Hugo Swire, affirmed in a meeting with South Korean diplomats that Korean music has gone global.[92]

Different aspects of traditional and contemporary Korean culture, clockwise from top left: A Samsung Galaxy Tab, women performing Taepyeongmu, a Korean dish known as Bibimbap, the K-pop idol Junsu, the K-pop boyband Super Junior and children in Hanbok costume

Back in Asia, the Hallyu-wave reached new heights as Myanmar's democracy icon and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Aung San Suu Kyi, made her first visit to South Korea in 2013 for, among others, a "special dinner" with some of the most popular Korean actors, including Ahn Jae-wook, the male protagonist of the 1997 Korean drama Star in My Heart. According to an article by Agence France-Presse, "Star in My Heart" was a big hit in Suu Kyi's homeland and its male protagonist Ahn Jae-wook was personally invited for a dinner with Aung San Suu Kyi because of his "resemblance to her assassinated father (Aung San)."[93]

On February 25, 2013, South Korea's newly elected president Park Geun-hye delivered her inauguration speech where she promised to build a nation that "becomes happier through culture," and to foster a "new cultural renaissance" that will transcend ethnicity and overcome ideologies because of its "ability to share happiness".[94] According to The Korea Times, one of Park Geun-hye's main priorities as president will be 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.[95]

However, a state survey of 3,600 respondents from Brazil, China, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, France, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom indicated that Hallyu faces an uncertain future as over 66 percent of respondents believe that the popularity of Korean culture will "subside in the next four years".[96]

Characteristics of Hallyu and role of the South Korean government[edit]

One important characteristic of the Korean Wave is the use of cultural technology to suit the tastes of overseas audiences,[97] as well as the use of social media to reach a wider audience.

The popularity of K-pop music videos has been aided by crowdsourcing translation sites such as Viki, whose Creative Commons license translations help bridge language barriers.[98]

The Government of South Korea considers the Korean Wave to be a viable way to increase the total exports of the country.[99] In 2013, the Export-Import Bank of Korea announced its decision to provide loans and credit guarantees worth US$917 million to entertainment and food firms over the next three years to promote the spread of the Korean Wave. A spokesman representing the bank told reporters that K-pop, Korean dramas, as well as traditional Korean cuisine have huge growth potential, and that exporters of such cultural content deserve more investment and financial support.[99]

In 2012, South Korea’s Ministry of culture, sport and tourism estimated Hallyu’s economic asset value at USD$83.2 billion USD. The South Korean government invests 20 to 30 more times on nurturing its pop cultural industries than other countries with the hopes of influencing foreign populations by spreading Korean culture and its way of life through music and television.[19] Due to Hallyu, South Korea welcomed more than 12 million visitors in 2013 with 6 million tourists coming from China alone.[100][101] With rising tourist prospects, especially from foreign countries outside of Asia, the South Korean government has set a target of attracting 20 million foreign tourists a year by 2017.[102] Hallyu's positive effects of the nation's entertainment industry are not limited to within its culture industry, according to a study by the Hyundai Research Institute. The Hyundai Research Institute reported that the Korean Wave has a direct impact in encouraging direct foreign investment back into the country through demand for products, and the tourism industry.[103] Among Asian countries, China was the most receptive, investing 1.4 billion in South Korea, with much of the investment within its service sector, a sevenfold increase from 2001. According to economist, Han Sang-Wan, shown an analysis that a 1 percent increase of exports of Korean cultural content pushes consumer goods exports up 0.083 percent while a 1 percent increase in Korean pop content exports to a country produces a 0.019 percent bump in tourism.[103]

Worldwide image surveys[edit]

On July 28, 2013, the South Korean government announced that it plans to conduct a worldwide public image survey of Korea targeting citizens of several major countries. The aim of the survey is to collect preliminary data in line with the state's goal of creating an "attractive Korea trusted by the world".[104] The results of the survey are due to be published in October 2013 and will involve 1,000 citizens from each foreign country.[104]

A few more rounds of such surveys involving 20 countries per year will also be held in 2014 and 2015.[105]

Census of Hallyu fans[edit]

According to a 2011 survey conducted by the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the total number of active members registered by Hallyu fan clubs worldwide is estimated to have surpassed 3 million for the first time.[106] These figures are based on statistics published by official fan clubs in countries and regions where the Korean Cultural Center has been established.

In recent years, the K-pop musical genre has secured a huge fan base in South America, parts of the Middle East, and a niche audience in the Western world. This graph (above) shows the general search interest for the Korean boyband Super Junior among various Internet users from Peru, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, the United States and Italy for the time period from October to November 2012.[107]
Year Country/
Number of
Hallyu fans
2012  Belarus 1,000 [108]
2012  Palestine 3,000 [109]
2012  Israel 5,000 [109]
2012  Peru 8,000 [110]
2012  Chile 20,000 [110]
2012  Russia 50,000 [6]
2012  Mexico 60,000 [111]
2011  France >100,000 [85]
2013  Turkey >150,000 [112]
Worldwide total
Year Fan clubs Members Source
2011 182 3.3 million [113]
2012 830 6.0 million [114]
2013 987 9.3 million [115]
Only official fan clubs registered by the South Korean
government are taken into account

In addition, there are also 200 fan clubs devoted to Hallyu in Japan, but most of these organizations were excluded from the 2011 state-sponsored survey as they have been operating solely for commercial purposes.[116] Also in the same year, the Korea Tourism Organization surveyed 12,085 fans of Hallyu and concluded that:

  • Young adults in their twenties formed the largest age group[117]
  • A majority of respondents were Asians and over 90% were female[117]
  • Korean pop (K-pop) remains the most popular category of Hallyu among overseas fans[117]

Hallyu and international diplomacy[edit]

Besides increasing the amount of exports, the Korean Wave is used by the government as a soft power tool to engage with the masses of young people all over the world,[118] and to reduce anti-Korean sentiment.[22]

In the 21st century, culture is power...Together with the Korean people we will foster a new cultural renaissance or a culture that transcends ethnicity and languages, overcomes ideologies and customs, contributes to the peaceful development of humanity, and is connected by the ability to share happiness.

— South Korean president Park Geun-hye[94]

Since 2011, South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been inviting K-pop fan communities from all over the world to take part in auditions held at the embassies of South Korea. After going through a few preliminary rounds, those selected by the jury will be sponsored a free trip to South Korea to compete in the annual K-Pop World Festival organized by the government.

In May 2012, the government held a K-pop showcase concert as part of its "Hallyu Diplomacy."[119]

East Asia[edit]


In 2005, the former Chinese President Hu Jintao remarked that it is a "shame" that his busy schedule had stopped him from watching every episode of the Korean TV series Dae Jang Geum.[120] According to Asia Times Online, Dae Jang Geum was first aired by China's state-run Hunan Broadcasting System a few months back and attracted over 180 million viewers from all over the country.[121]

Two years later, the former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was quoted by China's official 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."[122]

In August 2008, the lead actress of the Korean TV series Dae Jang Geum, Lee Young-ae, was invited to attend a state dinner with the presidents of China (Hu Jintao) and South Korea (Lee Myung-bak).[120]

In 2012, Psy reached Number 1 on China's Baidu 500 download list with his hit single "Gangnam Style," which was labelled by Chinese netizens and state media as a "divine melody" (viral song).[123][124] After in 2013 The Korean TV drama My Love from the Star has so far notched up more than 2.5 billion views online in China alone.[125]

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 generally are within the lower end of the education and income spectrum. The study has led to an angry response by fans of Korean television in China, with a group purchasing a full-page advertisement in the Chosun Ilbo requesting an apology from the authors of the study.[126][127]


The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledges that the "boom" in Korean popular culture in Japan has "expanded" mutual interest and cultural exchanges between both countries.[128] Several high-profile fans of Korean TV dramas include Japan's former first lady Miyuki Hatoyama and Japan's current first lady Akie Abe.[129]

However, the popularity of Korean entertainment exports has led to several instances of street protests and demonstrations involving hundreds of people.[130] These protests were mostly organized by critics of Korean pop culture with the support of right-wing nationalists.[131]

The Middle East[edit]

According to the Saudi Gazette, both Egypt and Iran have become major destinations of the Hallyu-wave since the mid-2000s.[132] Following the success of several Korean dramas, the Korean Overseas Information Service donated "Winter Sonata" (a popular Korean TV series) to several state-run Egyptian television networks and also paid an undisclosed fee for Arabic subtitles. The New York Times published an article stating that the intended goal was to "generate positive feelings" among Arab audiences towards South Korean soldiers stationed in northern Iraq.[133]

Israel and the Palestinian Territories[edit]

Since the mid 2000s, Hallyu has found surging popularity across Israel and the Palestinian Territories.[134] In a region troubled by geopolitical conflict and religious between two different peoples, it is hoped that a larger infusion K-pop would serve as a bridge towards peace by utilizing the genre to help young Israelis and Palestinians take their minds off of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to Dr. Nissim Atmazgin, a professor of East Asian Studies at Hebrew University, "Many young people look at K-pop as culture capital -- something that makes them stand out from the crowd." And sociologists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem reportedly have shown that K-Pop may be possible solution to bring Israelis and Palestinians together. In Israel, there are over 5000 K-pop followers and 3000 in the Palestinian territories as of 2012.[109] As of 2012, the most popular K-pop bands in Israel are the male bands Super Junior and SHINee while other popular bands include 2NE1, BIGBANG, FT Island, G-Dragon, Taeyang, TVXQ, MBLAQ, RAIN, Girl's Generation, and T-ara. Many dedicated Israeli and Palestinian K-pop fans tend to see themselves as "cultural missionaries" and actively introduce K-pop to their friends and relatives, further spreading the Hallyu wave within their communities.[135] On May 7, 2013 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel held a Hallyu conference, among the first of its kind where it examined social and academic developments inspired by Korean Wave in the Middle East. A celebration celebrating Korean culture called Korea Day at the Hebrew University was also organized on the same day.[136] In 2013, Israel along with Egypt and Morocco were the countries that garned most growth with respect to inrerest in Hallyu entertainment in the Middle East Region.[137]

Though Israeli, American, and European pop music still remains largely popular among Israelis, K-pop fandom is slowly evolving from an underground subculture into a more mainstream one. Similar patterns are seen throughout Palestine, where Palestinians typically listen to Arab pop music and K-pop is catching on to the Palestinian mainstream for alternative entertainment needs. Much of the fan driven Hallyu popularity in Israel and Palestine has been bolstered by social media for the dissemination and consumption of Hallyu cultural content. Korean movies, TV dramas, and K-pop have founds major niches among young females across the two respective regions. Israeli and Palestinian Hallyu fans have also exemplified further interest in Korean culture though online discussion forums, fan gatherings, and offline fan communication; where a few have also expressed further interest in studying the Korean language, history, and culture either on their own or in schools.[138]

There are also numerous fan clubs both on and offline across Israel and the Palestinian Territories where there are online Facebook communities dedicated to Hallyu in Israel and the Middle East. Participation in Internet forums dedicated by Hallyu has become an integral part of K-pop fandom for Israelis and Palestinians. Via virtual fandom, fans exchange K-pop related information, news, pictures, video clips, and gossip. Social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube play a major role in this fandom, providing popular means of communication as it also reflects the fact that K-pop content is almost completely unavailable offline seeing that there are no local shops selling K-pop commodities in Israel and Palestine, and no K-pop band has yet performed in the two respective regions.[135] Many Israeli fans displayed their interest in K-pop through American and Japanese television broadcasts and perusing Internet forums in English or Hebrew while Palestinians display their interests and get their Hallyu information from the Arab World at large.[138]

In 2006, the Korean TV drama My Lovely Sam Soon was the first Korean TV Drama to be aired on the Israeli cable soap-opera TV channel, Viva. The show was met with a lukewarm response and a surge in popularity in Korean TV Dramas that resulted the next thirty Korean TV dramas to be broadcast on the same channel. In addition, Further interest was surged by an increasing following in Korean pop culture among which include films, fashion, food, and K-pop itself. In 2011, further interest in Korean cuisine soared in Israel as Israeli Hallyu fans began cooking Korean foods as they had seen on Korean television dramas.[139] Israeli media has long displayed fascination for this sudden surge of interest in Korean pop culture since the late 2000s. For instance, in 2008, Yediot Aharonot, the most widely circulated daily Israeli newspaper, described the popularity of Korean TV dramas in Israel as a "revolution" in cultural taste. In 2013, another popular Israeli newspaper Calcalist, published a three-page cover story on how K-pop has "conquered" Israeli youth. Many Israeli and Palestinian K-pop fans tend to tap into other Hally-associated products and fields, especially TV dramas after delving into K-Pop or vice versa.[135] In December 2014, the Israeli Spy Drama The Gordin Cell became picked up for a South Korean remake. The popular drama format has been picked up by the Korean Broadcasting System. This event marks the first time that an Israeli drama will be released in South Korea and also the first time that South Korea made a Korean adaption of an Israeli drama.[140] Other K-drama rights that have been brought by Israeli broadcasting companies and are also popular in Israel include My Love From the Star and Jewel in the Palace.[20]

The Palestinian Territories has seen also seen a similar path—fans’ interest in Korean TV dramas was followed by listening to K-pop as well as the appropriateness of K-Dramas for conservative Muslim audiences. In Palestine, as in other countries in the Middle East, many Hallyu fans were initially exposed to Korean TV dramas through major Arabic TV channels such as Korea TV, MBC, and Dubai TV, which sometimes broadcast Korean TV dramas. Much exposure to Korean dramas on Arabic TV channels later encouraged fans to search for more information on Korea via the Internet.[135]

In addition, many Korean dramas and soap operas have drawn large audiences in Israel and Palestine and are overtaking popularity in Israel over their American counterparts as Korean dramas tend to show how to preserve traditional culture while modernizing in a contemporary culture. As K-pop continues to seep through the Middle East, people absorbed in Korean music are often called "K-poptists" in Israel and the reported number of "K-poptists" is on a steep rise. Many "K-poptists" are mostly female and are known to have a willingness to spend their time and money sharing information on their favorite K-pop singers as well as using money to buy K-pop CDs and posters from Ebay. Due to the rising interest in K-Pop throughout Israel and Palestine, the Korean language as well has seen a surge in interest as well. In 2008, a Korean language course was launched at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem offering lectures on Korean history, politics, and culture.[109]


K-pop is extremely popular in Kuwait.[141]


Autumn in My Heart, one of the earliest Korean dramas brought over to the Middle East, was made available for viewing after the South Korean embassy successfully persuaded an Egyptian state-run broadcasting company to air Korean TV series following five months of "persistent negotiations".[142] Shortly after the final episode ended, the embassy reported that it had received over 400 phone calls and love letters from fans from all over the country.[142] According to Lee Ki-seok, secretary of the South Korean embassy in Cairo, South Korea's involvement in the Iraq War had significantly undermined its reputation among ordinary Egyptians but the Korean drama Autumn in My Heart proved "extremely effective" in reversing this trend.[143]


In October 2012, the Tehran Times reported that several representatives from Iran's state broadcaster, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), have arrived in South Korea to visit the original filming locations of several Korean TV series including Jumong and Dong Yi, both of which have attained widespread popularity in Iran.[144] These TV series were previously aired by IRIB TV3, one of Iran's state-run television channels.[144] According to the IRIB World Service (the official external broadcasting network of Iran), the meeting was intended to strengthen the "cultural affinities" between the two countries and to seek avenues for further cooperation between the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) and the IRIB.[145]

South Korean actor Song Il-gook speaking to fans and Iranian journalists at a press conference in Tehran on August 18, 2009[146]

The main factor contributing to the IRIB's decision to air Korean TV series during prime time is often attributed to the lead protagonists' tendency to reinforce traditional Confucian values that are closely aligned with those of Islam, such as putting society before oneself and showing respect towards higher authorities.[147] Consequently, Korean dramas are seen as a substitute for Western film productions, many of which do not satisfy the criteria set by Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and are therefore censored by Iranian law enforcers.[148]

According to Reuters, until recently audiences in Iran have had little choice but to watch what the state broadcaster deemed was suitable.[148] As a result, Korean dramas aired by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting receive little competition from foreign film productions, and more often than not, attain higher viewership ratings in Iran than in South Korea. For example, some of the most popular episodes of Jumong attracted over 90% of all audiences in Iran (compared to 40% in South Korea), propelling the rise of its lead actor, Song Il-gook, to superstar status in Iran.[146]

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% [149]
2007–08 Emperor of the Sea Channel 3 51
2008 Thank You Channel 5 16
2008–09 Jumong Channel 3 81 80–90% [69]
2009 Behind the White Tower Channel 5 20
2010-11 The Kingdom of the Winds Channel 3 36
2011 The Return of Iljimae Channel 3 24
2012 Dong Yi Channel 3 60 [144]
2014 Kim Su-ro, The Iron King Channel 3 32
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 Hong Gil-dong Namasyesh TV 24
2015 Good Doctor Channel 2 20
2016 Pasta Namasyesh TV 20

In 2008, the National Museum of Korea organized an exhibition touted as "The Glory of Persia". In an interview with Iran's state-run media, Choe Kwang-shik (South Korea's former Minister of Culture) hailed the exhibition as one of the "most important cultural events" and expressed hope that it would "introduce the Iranian history, culture and civilization to the Korean people".[150] According to Iran's state-run media, the exhibition was attended by over 350,000 people, and the number of South Korean tourists visiting Iran had quadrupled as a result of the exhibition.[151]

More recently, researchers from both countries have been studying the cultural exchanges between Silla (one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea) and the Persian Empire (modern-day Iran).[152] A journalist from The Korea Times quoted an Iranian scholar suggesting that the cultures of Silla and Persia may have "naturally blended each other 1,200 years ago.".[152]

Iraqi Kurdistan[edit]

In 2012, the Korean drama Hur Jun was reported to have attained over 90% viewership ratings in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.[153] According to South Korean media, 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.[153]

Back in the early 2000s, Korean dramas were originally 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, there were efforts made to expand the availability of K-dramas to the ordinary citizens of Iraq. According to the South Korean embassy in Baghdad, plans have been made for the K-dramas Dae Jang Geum and Winter Sonata to be aired by Iraq's state-owned Al Iraqiya television network following the Ramadan festival in the latter half of 2012.[153]


In February 2012, Jaejoong (a band member of K-pop idol group JYJ) was invited by the South Korean Embassy in Ankara to hold an autograph signing session for hundreds of K-pop fans at Ankara University.[154] Before departing for K-pop concerts in South America, Jaejoong also attended a state banquet with the presidents of South Korea (Lee Myung Bak) and Turkey (Abdullah Gül).[155]



In March 2012, Australia's then 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."[156]

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."[157]

Eastern Europe[edit]


Marking the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties between South Korea and Belarus, the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that the National State Television and Radio Company will air a handful of Korean television programs from February 13 to 17 as part of its so-called "diplomatic broadcasting" with South Korea's Arirang TV. The ministry also added that extra attention will be given to K-pop concerts that are "becoming extremely popular all over the world."[158]

In return, South Korea's Arirang TV will broadcast Belarusian films several times a day during the same period.[158]


According to a local daily newspaper, the first Korean drama was aired on Romanian Television in August 2009 and in the following month, it became the 3rd most popular television program in Romania.[159] By 2010, many other Korean dramas were also aired on national television channels such as TVR1 and TVR2, with some of them attaining the highest TV Ratings among all prime time shows.[159]

As a result, the state-run Romanian Television network has further extended its purchase of Korean TV dramas.[160]

Western Europe[edit]


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".[161]


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."[162]

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 has gone "global".[92]

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 like never before, and "It's no wonder so many people around the world have caught the Korean Wave, Hallyu."[163]

During a bilateral meeting with South Korea's president Park Geun-Hye at the White House in May 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama cited Psy's "Gangnam Style" as an example of how people around the world are being "swept up by Korean culture – the Korean Wave."[164] In August 2013, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also affirmed that the Korean Wave "spreads Korean culture to countries near and far."[165]

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".[166]


Social and Cultural[edit]


Hallyu has become the widespread cultural phenomenon in China initiated by the popularity of Korean drama and music. The apparel, household activities, and daily shopping that are shown in the K-drama and K-pop stimulate the desire for Korean products and cultures, including cellphones, apparel, cosmetic products, games, comics, cuisine, and even cosmetic surgery.[167]

As Hallyu started sweeping across China in different media context, mainland networks simply bought the broadcasting rights and aired the shows on their channels. With different Korean TV formats being exported to China, Korean celebrities are becoming more and more popular in the Chinese market. Many talents as well as TV show formats are being exported and aired in China's broadcasting industry. Though importing foreign formats is not typically a new topic, Korean TV formats had never been largely practiced on Chinese TV before. The conditions that are required to produce a Korean reality program includes celebrities, suitable outdoor destinations, media organization's ability to manage a large mobile production team of over 100 people and enough economic support from sponsors and advertisers.[168]

  • K-Drama: In 1993, Jealousy is the first Korean Drama that CCTV tried to introduce in China. However, it is not until What is Love in 1997 that caused a great cultural fever in the Chinese society. Some films, such as Silmido (2003) and Taegukgi (2004), also received good reception.
  • K-pop: As Korean dramas became popular in China, the theme songs such as I Believe from a K-drama My Sassy Girl also gained popularity. In February 2000, the popular band H.O.T. formed by S.M. Entertainment held a concert in Beijing and the tickets were completely sold out. This was the first time that K-pop held a concert outside of Korea.[169]
  • Korean Reality Show: In July 2010, Running Man, a South Korean reality show, was the first reality show that had major success across Asia. As of May 2014, SBS announced the making of a Chinese version being co-produced with Zhejiang Television called Hurry Up, Brother. Classified as an urban action variety, the show gains much of it success from its unique format and hilarious situations. This unfamiliar format has been a major hit with both Korean and international fans often showing the more competitive sides of famous stars. By early 2015, the localized version of Running Man had 11.3 billion visitors on their Weibo account page.[170] This version was also created into a reality TV movie earning 3.5 million dollars over three days. The first year of the Chinese version consisted of fifteen episodes and replaced the record of the TV rating for the reality TV show in China with 4.2%, when most shows average around 1%. The show accumulated more than 23 billion viewership and over 150 million social media posts.[171]


Gala Television Corporation (GTV) in Taiwan is the most important trendsetter for the Korean Wave in Taiwan. GTV started to broadcast Korean television dramas in the late 1990s and developed a special strategy for promoting the dramas. Since Korean television dramas were dubbed in to Mandarin or Taiwanese[disambiguation needed] and were not specially labelled as "foreign" or "Korean," Taiwanese audience often tend to find the compatibility and similarity between K-drama and locally produced drama. It is GTV’s de-labeling strategy that attracts Taiwanese audience to watch Korean television drama when K-drama first introduced in Taiwan.[172]

According to GTV’s data, Dae Jang Geum is the most popular Korean television in Taiwan. Its highest ratings achieved 6.35%.[172] The main actress, Lee Young-ae, attracted numerous fans in Taiwan. Some of her fans in Taiwan even tried to make themselves look like Lee through cosmetic surgery.[173]


Dae Jang Geum caused a Korean trend in Zimbabwe. When Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), which broadcast Dae Jang Geum, held an essay writing competition, it attracted 1,600 essays for three prizes that consisted of autographed posters of Lee Young-ae, the main actress in Dae Jang Geum.[174]


National prestige[edit]

In 2012, the BBC's country rating poll revealed that public opinion of South Korea has been improving every year since the first rating poll for the country was conducted in 2009. In several countries such as Russia, India, China and France, public opinion of South Korea turned from slightly negative to generally positive. The report cited culture and tradition as among the most important factors contributing to positive perceptions of South Korea.[175]

This comes alongside a rapid surge in cultural exports which was worth a total of US$4.2 billion in 2011.[176] The following data is based on government statistics for the value of cultural exports while the country's rank in global soft power is based on a study by the international affairs magazine "Monocle":

2008[177] 2009[178] 2010[179] 2011[179] 2012[180][181]
Total value of cultural
exports (in USD billions)
1.8 2.6 3.2 4.3 5.02
South Korea's global
rank in soft power
19 14 11

Korean conflict[edit]

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

Roh Moo-hyun, the ninth President of South Korea, was among the first to acknowledge the use of the Hallyu-wave as a tool to reunify the Korean Peninsula.[23][182]

In May 2007, the TV series Hwang Jini (which is adapted from a novel by a North Korean author) became the first South Korean film production to be made available for public viewing in North Korea.[183] With the end of Roh Moo-hyun administration's Sunshine Policy towards North Korea and a deterioration of North-South relations, however, the spread of the Hallyu-wave 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) indicated that the Korean Wave "may already have taken a strong hold in the isolated Stalinist state".[184]

In 2010, researchers from the Korea Institute for National Unification surveyed 33 North Korean defectors and found out that the impact of Korean dramas such as "Winter Sonata" had played a significant role in shaping the decision of North Korean 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 televisions sets in order to receive signals from South Korean broadcast stations in the vicinity,[23] while CDs and DVDs smuggled across the border with China also increased the reach of South Korean popular culture in the North.[23] 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.[185][186]

The survey was repeated in 2012, this time with a much larger group of North Korean defectors (100 in total). According to one of the researchers, some of North Korea's financial elite have been watching South Korean videos either on a daily basis, or at least once a week. The survey also affirmed a widely held belief that North Koreans living close to the border with China have the highest degree of access to South Korean entertainment as compared to other areas.[187]

In October 2012, the supreme leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, gave a speech at the headquarters of the internal security division of the Korean People's Army, where he vowed to "extend the fight against the enemy's ideological and cultural infiltration".[188] Earlier on, a study conducted by an international consulting group, commissioned by the U.S. State Department, came to the conclusion that the country is "increasingly anxious" to keep the flow of information at bay but has less ability to control it as there is "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 that demand.[189]

"...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[190]

In February 2013, South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted a human rights group saying that Psy's 2012 international hit single Gangnam Style has "deeply permeated North Korea", after the mission group had been actively sending out K-pop CDs and other goods across the China–North Korea border.[191]

On May 15, 2013, the non-governmental organization 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".[192]


Due to the popularity of the Korean Wave in Asia, Korean dramas have been able to attract Asian buyers at the very earliest stages of production. For example, Spring Waltz (KBS 2006) was already pre-sold to eight Asian countries at its pre-production stage in 2004.[26]

According to a 2006 Washington Post article, the increased popularity of South Korean entertainment has led to increased sales of other aspects of South Korean culture including food, clothing, video games, and Korean language classes.[193]

The following data is from the Korea Creative Contents Agency, a body that is a part of the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of the Republic of Korea, and is from the first quarter of 2012 fiscal year. All monetary values represent South Korean won.

Creative Industry Sector Total revenue Exports
Animation[194] 135.5 billion ₩35.2 billion
Broadcasting[195] ₩213.5 billion ₩2.2 billion
Cartoon[196] ₩183.2 billion ₩4.7 billion
Character[194] ₩1882.9 billion ₩111.6 billion
Gaming[197] ₩2412.5 billion ₩662.5 billion
Knowledge/Information[198] ₩2123.1 billion ₩105.2 billion
Motion Picture[199] ₩903.8 billion ₩15.6 billion
Music[200] ₩997.3 billion ₩48.5 billion
Publishing[196] ₩5284.6 billion ₩65 billion

Hallyu and tourism[edit]

The common approach when researching Hallyu is how it has influenced the world around it. This chapter will focus on the next step, what happens after the Korean Wave has reached its shores, and how it affect tourism in South Korea.[201]

The number of visitors of South Korea has almost doubled within the last 10 years. The export of Korean Broadcasting Programs in 2010 was more than 30 times higher than in 1996. At the same time the phenomenas K-pop and K-food are being spread through Asia.[202]

The cultural export of South Korea has blossomed remotely within the last 10 years. In comparison to other major exports, such as cars, mobiles and ships cultural export has a powerful influence over tourism in South Korea. A smashing hit song like Gangnam Style or touching romantic dramas like My Love from the Star, may not be the leading export financially, but the impact it has on Korea as a brand is priceless. K-pop, for instance, has reached a halo effect on Korea’s brand.[203]

K-pop and tourism[edit]

K-pop is a music genre and includes any kind of popular music from South Korea. It is also an important part of South Korea’s cultural export, tourism industry and is included in the neologistic term The Korean Wave or Hallyu as it is called.

The author of The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation Is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture, Euny Hong, believes that growing popularity of K-pop abroad, is a strategy created by the Korean government to influence foreign affairs.[204] K-pop is indeed a powerful part of South Koreas cultural export, it was invested in by the government already in 2005 with $1 billion to help support the training of upcoming K-pop stars.[205]

The phenomena K-pop has also spread to several TV-shows such as K-pop Star, Superstar K and Girls Generation Goes to School.

Besides listening to the music, reading the news and the gossip and watching the TV-shows, fans can participate in different concerts, performances and even audition themselves to become the next K-pop star. Globally, fans are limited, since most activities is centred to South Korea, except some fewer concerts and global auditions.

K-pop has appropriated parts of Hip hop, Electronic music, Soul, RnB, and many others. A popular topic among several K-pop blogs online is cultural appropriation within K-pop. Some has a positive approach and argues that this is the reason for its global popularity, while others are more critical.[206][207][208]

In addition to the international produced content, K-pop is also marketed internationally, especially to developing countries who does not have a strong domestic music industry of their own.[204]

K-pop tourism in South Korea[edit]

K-pop is an important component in South Korean Tourism, well recognised by the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO). On their official tourist information webpage, K-pop is listed just as any other tourist destination. KTO include instructions on how to apply for current K-pop shows and activities and share information and trivia on the leading K-pop star.[209]

It has been estimated that K-pop and the Korean Wave has contributed with more than $3 billion to the South Korean economy in 2011.[210] This have not passed unnoticed by record label SM Entertainment. In 2012, SM Entertainment acquired one of South Korea’s largest travel agencies, with the purpose to expand the business model of K-pop.

SM Entertainment has also promoted South Korea as a tourist attraction through a K-pop concert in France on behalf of KTO. Surveys showed that 9 out of 10 K-pop fans wished to visit South Korea, while 75 percent actually said they already started their travel plans.[211]

Imagine your Korea[edit]

In 2014, KTO launched a campaign called Imagine your Korea, with the purpose of re-branding Korean Culture. The new way of branding includes the Korean Wave and its K-pop, K-food and K-dramas, emphasising on the K in Korea. The aim off the campaign is to highlight Korea’s different qualities by lifting its improved global status and portraying the leading popular culture. Imagine your Korea has used K-pop stars such as Psy and Big Bang in their adverts.[212][213][214][215]

Things for a K-pop fan to do in South Korea[edit]

In Seoul, K-pop fans can visit the headquarters of the major record labels, such as SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment, to try to catch a glimpse of their favourite stars. There are numerous souvenir shops, focusing on either K-pop groups or K-pop stars. Another attraction is to visit bars, cafés and restaurants owned by parents or other relatives of the celebrities.[216]

Besides the regular concerts and performances, K-pop fans can apply to attend to K-pop Music Shows as studio audience or attend a hologram performance. The hologram performance is IT technology combined with K-pop culture to simulate a real concert or performance.[217]

For a historical perspective, fans can go and the K-pop Music Exhibition Hall which focuses on Korean popular music through time. In addition to the ordinary exhibit, the museum exhibit themed eras, such as a specific artist or other themes.[218]

To conclude, K-pop has a large impact on tourism in South Korea thanks to its governmental support, the spread of K-pop online, its cultural appropriation and the usage of the K-pop stars in campaigns and commercials.

Promoting K-pop abroad[edit]

Just as K-pop has appropriated cultures and styles, K-pop itself is being appropriated outside South Korea. One example is K-pop aerobics or K-pop fitness classes in Singapore.[219]

As an attempt to draw more visitors to South Korea, KTO’s local branches are arranging events in sites where K-pop has a wide fan base. These events includes tourist information, attractions and some tastes of the local culture such as soap making, hand massages and Korean traditional tea. In Singapore, KTO will hold an MICE and cultural festival for the first time on May 8, 2015. To attract the fan base, KTO has arranged K-pop stars such as K-tigers, Drum Cats, Block B and Sorea to perform on stage. The Manager behind the event explains that the purpose is find out what the participants expects while visiting South Korea. Instead of offering the traditional travel choices like kimchi-making classes, KTO wants to educate their staff by hearing the examples the participants wants to provide.[220][221]

The fan based page Hallyusg.net has recently added a chapter called K-travel with destination information, relevant for K-pop and K-drama fans. The chapter gives tips and advices on which K-pop or K-drama related sites to see. They give tips on essential tools to bring, like smartphones and other relative events to Hallyu and the Korean Wave.[222]

K-food and tourism[edit]

South Korean food (K-food) has exploded in popularity in recent years in the Asia-Pacific region as well as globally. We see the scope of its influence in visceral forms as more cafes and restaurants serving Korean cuisine pops up in countries all across the world. Not only that, but more people are also flocking to South Korea to get a true taste of their favourite Korean food. This has added to the growing tourism that South Korea has been enjoying. We’ll be examining why exactly South Korean food has gotten so popular over the past few years, and also their extent of influence within Singapore itself.

Why Is Korean food so good? (pull factors)[edit]

There is a flourishing food culture in South Korea which attracts people due to the quantity and quality of food available.[223]

One can see the manifestation of their seriousness in the numerous awards[224] and sterling reputation of top chefs such as Edward Young-min Kwon, the various food fairs that are regularly held, as well as Pojangmacha, streets lined with food stalls. This is different from the Western culture where people don’t accord as much outward value to their food but rather view food as a means of supporting more important parts of their lifestyle such as in the gathering of friends and family. Indeed, it can be said that while the Westerners ‘eat to live’, Asians tend toward the mindset of ‘live to eat’.

One of the key influences that has shaped the way that South Koreans view meal preparation is in Confucianism. The Confucian culture grounds itself in the collectivist mindset of striving for the greater good and a better society. As in Confucian philosophy, the family is a microcosm of society. In order for you to serve your country well, your family must first be run well. In order to achieve this, each person must perform his individual duty well within the family so that the collective purpose is fulfilled. This is where the traditional gender roles and also the hierarchical nature of families also emerged. The youth are expected to respect their elders because of the assumed knowledge and wisdom their elders have.

The impact of the task of food preparation is thus two-fold: Firstly, food preparation can be viewed as a form of respect as it helps in the functioning of society. Secondly, one must execute his duties with excellence and perform his role in society well regardless of how small he thinks it is. Thus on an individual basis, people take great pride and care into these kinds of tasks in order to ensure that they are serving people well. The result of this is a wide range of Korean cuisine prepared with heart and served with pride.

Why are people travelling to South Korea for the food? (push factors)[edit]

Regionally, there has been an increase in accessibility to South Korea and thus South Korean food. Budget airlines have become a strong contender for regular air travel, and a real alternative for people wishing to travel overseas. While in the past, people felt more compelled to have a complete travel itinerary to as to be cost-effective, due to much cheaper travel, it is possible for them to focus solely on indulging in the local cuisine. This demand has also been met with strong supply in Korea itself, where there are food tours[225] organised for this Seoul (sole) purpose.

Secondly, due to strong similarities in tastes and preferences in cuisine (compounded with the availability of similar types of ingredients being available regionally), Korean cuisine remains popular in Asia.

Cross-influence from other factors[edit]

Popularity of Korean dramas and K-Pop has also led to an increase in demand for Korean food as people want to partake in Korean culture in a tangible and visceral way. Thus, more people are going to Korea and including Korean cuisine as a vital part of their travel itinerary even if their main objective was to indulge in Korean drama or K-Pop activities.

Popularity of Korean food in Singapore[edit]

Due to the burgeoning interest in Korean culture, there has also been an increase in the number of food and beverage outlets serving Korean cuisine. In Singapore, the people’s love for food extends to all cultures. This is reflected in the huge varieties of cuisine from all over the world as shown by the cafes and restaurants available.

For example, you could get Turkish cuisine and then have a Japanese soft-serve ice cream in the Bugis area alone. For Korean food, other than restaurants serving up traditional side dishes, noodles, bibimbap, or even Korean BBQ, there are also specialty supermarkets such as Sol Supermarket.

There are two reasons for this increase in supply and demand of Korean food. The first reason is due to the increase in interest in Korean culture due to K-Pop and K-Dramas becoming popular in Singapore. Another reason would be to cater to the growing Korean population in Singapore: There are many Koreans[226] that come to Singapore so that their children can benefit from the education system. Adults come here as Singapore is a business hub.[227] The supply of food & beverage outlets as well as other goods and services have thus sought to tap into this demand for Korean products.

K-dramas and tourism[edit]

The successful strategic used by KTO, is one of the reasons for the increasing tourism in Korea. KTO first launch three main topics in Korean tourism; Dramatic encounter, Exciting land & Friendly neighbour, and Colourful adventure. In 2005, KTO used famous actresses and other forms of entertainment to attract tourism to Korea. Later KTO also developed the tour programs for where some famous TV-series were recently shot. By developing familiar scenes from TV-series, this became a major success where millions of tourism visited these places.[228]

TV-Dramas works as a good way of promoting the country and specific destinations by its way of waking awareness of the country and its facilities.[229] The export of the Korean programs is dominated by drama series. In 2005, 93.4% of the exported programmes came from drama series. In 2012 it had decreased to 87% but this still dominated the genre, compared to genres such as animation which comprised 1.3% of the exported programs.[230]

Visit Korea 2015[edit]

Hallyu is deeply integrated in Korean tourism, and K-drama is still one of the big attractions. When visiting a Korean travel agency webpage it is easy to find and get access to information about tourism connected to K-dramas. Through this webpages it is easy to select your favourite K-drama and see the location of the shooting areas. This tourism pages are providing their visitors with addresses and information on how to get there. If it is a place like a coffee shop or diner, usually the opening hours are provided through these webpages.[231][232]

It is easy for K-drama fans to visit South Korea since there is no need for guided tours, and one can easily get around by themselves to the different locations. This budget alternative dos often not cost more than the transportation costs.

Many webpages are divided after location for specific movies, which makes it easier for fans to organise their visits according to the specific place connected to their favourite K-dramas. The locations that are suggested on the webpages are often places from the K-dramas where something special has taken place. These places can be film locations where the first kiss between the actresses took place or cafés where certain discussions were made.

Who visits Korea because of K-dramas?[edit]

A reason why foreigners are visiting these places where the K-dramas or movies has been recorded, is to be able to "feel" like they are in the movie or feel like they are the actor/actress.[229] Another reason for visiting these sites is simply out if interest of the K-dramas or movies and to see the place with own eyes.

In statistics provided by KTO, one can see an increase in the trend of visiting South Korea. From the years 1997-2012, there has been an increase of tourism from 400,000 to 11, 000,000.[233] There is a possibility to see a pattern between who is watching the K-dramas and who’s visiting South Korea. The K-dramas has a majority of female watchers,[234] and looking in to the gender aspects of tourists from South East Asia, there is a majority of women visiting Korea.[233] Between 2003 and 2004, tourism from Japan to South Korea increased with 35,5 %, more specifically, the shooting location of Winter Sonata increased rapidly, mainly visited by women.[228]

Popular locations to visit[edit]

One of the TV-dramas that were made to a tourist attraction was the K-drama Winter Sonata. This drama is one of the most popular K-dramas outside South Korea and was aired in, among others, Philippines and Japan.

One of the places where this drama was shot was Nami Island. In 2003, approximately 111,400 foreign tourists visited the island. In 2005 after launching K-drama as a tourist attraction this number increased to over 270.000 visitors.[228] Jeju Island is also a popular place to visit. Here, K-drama fans can visit shooting location of Boys Over Flowers and Secret Garden for instance. In Seoul, there are plenty of film locations to visit, one example is the Tiramisu Café in Hongdae. This is one of the locations where Coffee Princes Café was shot.[235]

Marketing abroad[edit]

There are other ways for K-drama fans to connect with the drama series besides travelling to South Korea. The marketing of K-dramas is integrated in many levels of the society. Shopping stores that initially comes from South Korea but has expanded abroad, sometimes uses images or posters of famous K-drama actresses to launch a new product.[236] This integrated marketing communication is becoming more common, and stars that appear are for example Kim Hyun Joong from my Boys over flowers and Kim Soo-Hyun from My love from the star. Actors like Kim Hyun Joong sometimes travel to countries like Singapore to promote new products.[236] Another way of expanding the popular concept of K-dramas abroad is to hold concerts with singers who perform the soundtracks from famous K-dramas.[237][238]

KTO also uses the K-drama stars as ambassadors to promote South Korea as a tourist destination. 17 April Kim Soo-Hyun was elected as promotional ambassador for KTO.[239]


There have been many cultural backlashes in places where the Hallyu-wave has spread, as is the case in countries such as Japan, China, and Taiwan. Jeongmee Kim, a researcher specialized in Korean media, considers that the Hallyu label has been connected with "damaging negative associations" in some Asian countries since "the term itself being bound up from the beginning with the notions of Korean success and national pride."[172] Existing anti-Korean attitudes may be rooted in historical hatreds and ethnic nationalism.[130][240] In Japan, an anti-Korean comic book, Manga Kenkanryu or Hating the Korean Wave was released in July 26, 2005, which became a No. 1 bestseller on Amazon.co.jp. Japanese actor Sousuke Takaoka openly showed his dislike for the Korean Wave on his Twitter, which triggered an Internet movement to boycott Korean programs on Japanese television on the 8th of August.[241] On February 1, 2012, Al Jazeera revealed "punishing schedules and contracts, links to prostitution and corruption" in the industry.[242] Anti-Korean attitude also spiked when Kim Tae-Hee, a Korean actress, was selected to be on a Japanese TV soap opera in 2011. Since she was 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. It is notable how there is a growing anti-Hallyu sentiment in Japan. "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," according to a Korea Times article.[243]

In China, Zhang Kuo Li, a well-known Chinese producer, views that the Korean Wave as a "cultural invasion" and advocated Chinese people to reject Korean exports. Zhang criticized that Dae Jang Geum is a "boring, slow tempoed, lack-of-creativity" show.[244] He further accused that the show is a "cultural theft by claiming that the acupuncture, cookery skills and herbal medicine presented in the show as Korean were in fact of Chinese origin. Jackie Chan also joined Zhang’s advocation to resist the Korean Wave.[citation needed] The backlash in Taiwan is mentioned in the article Korean Wave backlash in Taiwan

As the Hallyu-wave arrives in the West, there is concern that South Korea could tap into the Hallyu-wave to achieve its political goals. In a satirical speech recorded by a local radio station, the Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, joked that the world might end due to the "total triumph of K-Pop".[245][246] Others have also 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 sponsored by the South Korean government to strengthen its political influence bears a whiff of the "old Victorian fear of Yellow Peril" that many Westerners in the late nineteenth century feared would eventually take over and destroy Western civilization and its culture.[247]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]