Top, Girls' Generation, a popular K-pop group, pose with actor and co-guest Bill Murray on "The Late Show with David Letterman" on January 31. / Bottom left, K-pop girl group T-ara take part in a photo shoot. / Bottom right, Lee Byung-hun poses for the cameras at a press launch for a TV drama.
"'Hallyu' will cool down in four years".
Six out of 10 foreigners believe the recent fad for Korean culture - K-pop, movies and TV dramas and soap operas - will decline over the next few years.
Sixty percent of 3,600 people in nine countries, including China, Japan, Thailand, the United States and France, are doubtful that hallyu, the Korean wave, will see lasting international success, according to a survey by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korea Foundation for International Culture Exchange (KOFICE).
Hallyu, which started with the popular Korean drama "Winter Sonata" in 2002 and continued with K-pop's Girls' Generation, is still hot all over the world. Therefore, Koreans, currently drunk on the international Korean culture craze, are shocked at the survey's results.
The main reason foreigners doubted hallyu's continued success is because they are "tired of standardized content", as 20.5 percent of respondents said.
Hypersexual dancing, lyrics and clothing are common among K-pop "idols", and teen singers. Korean drama series repeatedly revisit topics such as adulterous affairs, revenge and secrets surrounding the birth or identity of characters, making it difficult to move increasingly desensitized audiences.
Experts believe it is time hallyu had a makeover.
Korea needs to sell its unique story to win over other countries, integrating the nation's traditions into Korean pop culture, said experts.
"Content that isn't original and diverse will not survive in the market. It is essential to diversify the stories in the media", said an official from the culture ministry. "We also need to encourage financial investment in media, because you can't create a masterpiece with just a great story and an idea".
In today's society, stories equal money. A unique story will help make a drama, movie, game or animation a success.
The worldwide bestselling, "Harry Potter" series, shows how powerful new stories can be. The brand value of JK Rowling's seven-volume series rose to $15 billion over a decade, landing the author $1 billion in profits. The series about the apprentice wizard comprised of seven books, eight films, various games and a theme park, that opened in Florida in 2010, and has contributed an estimated $6 trillion to the British economy annually. This is equivalent to profits that Samsung Electronics, the largest Korean business, made in the first quarter of last year.
There are a few successful media stories for hallyu as well.
The number of tourists visiting Namiseom, a small island on the Han River in Chuncheon, hit a record 2.3 million last year. Eighteen percent, or 400,000, were foreigners.
It became the first hallyu hit as middle-aged Japanese women flocked to see the setting for the show after it aired. Namiseom uses a method of storytelling, in its tours, recreating the narrative at every corner of the island for tourists.
It calls itself the "Republic of Nami", and makes visitors pass through an "immigration bureau". Many believe that unique programs like this and celebrations like "National Day" for foreigners also contribute to attracting tourists.
"Seoul Forum 2012" released plans to help globalize hallyu in the Dynasty Hall of the Shilla Hotel in Seoul on May 16 and 17.
By Kim Susan Se-jeong
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