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'Korean Wave' expands global reach via new genres

2011/06/22 | Permalink | Source

The "Korean Wave", or hallyu, started in Asia focused on TV dramas and K-pop but is now spreading to other genres and reaching a broader global audience.

The term "Korean Wave" was coined in 2003 when the hit soap opera "Winter Sonata" attracted huge fans in Japan. The fever has grown into a worldwide phenomenon with children in a small remote village in Manipur, India, saying "Thank You" and "I love you" in Korean.

Bekhzod, a college student in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent starts each day listening to the song "Gee" by Girls' Generation that goes, "So cool, dazzle my eyes, can't breathe, I'm shaking". He sets the alarm of his mobile phone with this music and also watches the Korean drama "Queen Seondeok" on Samsung TV while having breakfast with his family.

Uzbek, Yoshlar, Tashkent and Markaziy, four state-owned TV stations in Uzbekistan, compete against other to air more Korean dramas.

Bekhzod has an LG Electronics air conditioner at home that he turns on during breakfast. Perhaps his fondness for Korean pop and dramas has prompted him to use Korean home electronics.

The young man's bag is full of Korean-made pens and notebooks. When morning class is over, he gets Korean lessons from an ethnic Korean living there in preparation for a Korean-language contest. His daily life is surrounded by "Made in Korea" products.

If Korean dramas led the Korean Wave in early 2000s, K-pop is doing so now. K-pop is popular not only in Japan, China and Southeast Asia but also in North America, Europe, Africa and South America.

YouTube's K-pop map shows that the music videos of Shinee's "Replay" and 2NE1's "Lonely" are viewed all over the world except in Chad and the Central African Republic.

According to the Korean Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministry's 2010 content industry statistics, Korean music exports rose 71 percent between 2005 and 2009 from 22.27 million U.S. dollars to 31.26 million dollars.

The spread of the Korean Wave is helping raise Korea's national brand image and the export of Korean products. After Lotte Liquor BG hired Korean actor Jang Keun-suk to endorse its products, Lotte exported 24 million bottles of the Korean rice wine "makgeolli" to Japan in the first half of this year, 40 percent more than its initial target.

With Korean food gaining popularity in Singapore after the historical drama "Jewel in the Palace" ("Dae Jang Geum") was aired there, CJ Foodville opened a "bibimbap" (rice with vegetables) chain Bibigo in the city-state.

LG Electronics, which started relatively later than its rivals in the smartphone market, has also raised its market share in Singapore thanks to the use of popular actor Lee Min-ho in ads.

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