By Kang Hyun-kyung
LIMA ― Fans living in other parts of Asia embark on a pilgrimage to South Korea to attend their K-pop stars' performance or meet them in person. K-pop idols conduct performances in Asian countries to reach their fans, helping them have more opportunity to interact with their stars.
Unlike Asian fans, those residing in distant countries such as Peru have fewer opportunities to meet their K-pop idols in person partly because these stars rarely perform there.
Flying to Seoul from Peru takes more than 20 hours, including several hours of downtime when transferring planes, making it difficult for Peruvian fans to visit here.
The distant star-fan relations allowed fans in Latin America to develop their own way of interacting with their idols. Fans meet in a certain venue, for example at a concert hall, on a certain day to watch their K-pop idols' music videos or DVDs together with other like-minded people.
Last year, Estrella Park was surprised at the young crowds who flocked to an event hall in San Isidro, Lima, to watch a big screen running DVDs of South Korean pop stars.
The students, mostly who attend high schools and colleges based in Peru's capital city, sang and danced for two and a half hours in a cheerful atmosphere.
The K-pop stars that appeared on the big screen that the 25-year old medical school student saw included Girls' Generation, SS501, Big Bang and TVXQ.
Park said she heard about the Korean wave or hallyu before she joined such a "bizarre" union where fans, who had few opportunities to meet their idols in person, set up their own events to experience K-pop stars.
"After the San Isidro event, I felt that hallyu is really here and it has made a real impact on teens and young college students", she said.
The hallyu boom has created a new way to bridge fans and their idols in Peru. The two meet through videos on a big screen.
In Arenales shopping mall in Lima, visitors can easily find posters advertising K-pop fan clubs in Peru that organize get-togethers of their own. Some fan clubs launch a dance off where contestants are invited to show off their dancing skills.
Fans set up a date on July 3 to celebrate the birthday of singer Kim Hyun-joong
, an SS501 member.
Girl group Kara
fans are slated to meet at 1:30 p.m. on June 25 to celebrate two birthday girls, Han Seung-yeon
and Park Gyu-ri
Shops there display and sell K-pop stars' latest CDs and DVDs.
Lucia Guzman, a staff member selling music CDs and comic books at a store in the shopping mall, said the sales of K-pop stars' CDs are as good as that of Japanese comics.
She said most of her customers are high school students and her store is usually packed with K-pop fans who want to buy their idols' albums during the weekend.
Korean dramas airing on major television networks in Peru are a major driving force behind the hallyu boom in the South American country, people who are familiar with the phenomenon said.
From January 2002, several Korean dramas, including "My Name is Kim Sam-soon
", have aired on major television networks.
The Korean Embassy in Peru said nine hallyu fan clubs have been organized.
The popularity of K-pop and Korean drama in Peru has created a rising demand for Korean language programs.
In Peru, four universities, including San Marcos University, currently provide Korean language programs.
Recently, an increasing number of universities have asked the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) Peru Office if it can place volunteers to teach Korean at their university.
As more Peruvians show an interest in Korea and its culture, some called on policymakers to come up with an effective response.
Jang Bong-soon, head of the KOICA office, noted that the establishment of a culture center in Peru could be an idea to meet the rising demand.
"We can teach Korean language there, or organize a variety of cultural events to raise awareness of the Korean culture. We can also consider a youth exchange program targeting Peruvian university students who are interested in knowing more about Korea", he said.
Fans of girl group Kara
announce in this poster that they will meet at 1:30 p.m. on June 25 to celebrate the birthdays of two Kara
members, Han Seung-yeon
and Park Gyu-ri
. The poster was displayed in a shop window at Arenales shopping mall in Lima. / Korea Times photo by Kang Hyun-kyung
남미 페루에 부는 한류 열풍
페루 리마 시내의 한 쇼핑몰, 빅뱅, 2PM
, 동방신기, SS501 등 한국 아이돌 가수들의 포스터가 즐비하다. 이 포스터를 자세히 보면 페루에서 일고 있는 한류의 특징적 현상을 발견하게 된다.
한국가수의 공연이 상대적으로 뜸한 페루에서 한류팬들은 대형콘서트장 등 주요시설을 빌려 한국가수의 뮤직비디오나 콘서트 영상을 담은 DVD를 대형스크린에 틀어 놓고 노래를 따라 부르거나 춤을 추면서 한류를 즐긴다.
일부 팬들은 한국가수 춤을 따라 하는 댄스배틀 대회를 열기도 한다.
페루의 한류팬들은 한국가수의 생일에 맞춰 스스로 팬모임을 갖기도 한다. 걸그룹 카라 멤버들의 생일 기념 행사가 6월에 있을 예정이라는 포스터와, SS501 김현중의 7월 생일에 맞춰 팬 행사가 예정되어 있다는 포스터도 눈에 띈다.
이같은 한류행사에 다녀온 한 현지 대학생에 따르면, 페루에서의 한류열기가 결코 과장된 것이 아니라고 전한다. 한국사람을 보면 한국어를 가르쳐 달라고 요청하는 페루인들이 많고, 일부 대학에서는 국제협력단 페루사무소에 한국어를 가르칠 한국인 자원봉사자를 파견해 달라고 요청도 한다는 것.
페루에서 뜨거운 한류열기에도 불구하고, 이러한 수요에 부응하는 정부 대응이 너무 소극적이라는 지적도 일고 있다.
일각에서는 페루에 한국 문화원 설치를 통해 한류열기를 흡수하고, 떠오르는 시장인 남미에서 한국의 국가이미지를 높이는데 활용해야 한다고 주장한다.