Going global or just media hype?

“Block B set to perform with Alexandra Burke”
“Seungri takes a picture with Ashton Kutcher”
“Ian Somerholder from Vampire Diaries Tweets Miss A’s Suzy”

Judging by the headlines you would assume that K-pop has managed to take over the world. It never fails to amaze me just how much being seen with an international celebrity seems to be seen as the best thing.
Of course the Korean media has a sense of nationalism and wants to portray a certain level of pride over its adopted cultural ambassadors.

As an outsider to the culture and history of Korea I know that for a such a small country it has managed to achieve a high level of development over a relatively short period of time. Going from a country on a third world status to being one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world.

The history of the country post the Korean War has also not been a bed of roses with dictatorship and censorship marring the lives of many. You could say that although Korea had an established entertainment industry for a long time, it was only after the dictatorship in the 80’s that the press and musicians had a sense of freedom to say and do what it wanted.

Does this need for the international recognition chime in with the insecurity felt over its entertainment industry?

I would tend to agree with this statement. Looking at just the entertainment industry and my understanding with this growth of ‘Hallyu’ it created a tool that Korea could use to sell itself. This slickly produced package presented the country in a positive light and garnered a lot of interest. The government has even made it part of the pop culture and it has become the countries tool of soft power.

Hence the plethora of K-pop tours, shows catered to present it to international fans and this plan has worked with a large jump in tourism. Current numbers suggest that Korea has had a boom of 10 million visitors this year and even many people have elected to relocate to Korea (although many of their reasons are sketchy and that is for another time).

South Korea is no longer just the ‘nice Korea’, it has become a strong nation on its own in terms of branding.
However in the space of things the entertainment industry is still miniscule compared to western entertainment industries.

The adage that if you can make it America you can make it everywhere is somewhat true. Hence the rush to get K-pop acts over to America.

Psy was a fluke and looking deeper into what he achieved it seemed that his whole career will be thought of as ‘that guy with the horse dance’ by many western people who are not familiar with his star status in Korea. So for the Korean media when a star is captured standing near or in the same room as an established western star this generated headlines back home. As it provides that their talent or skills are being sanctioned by these ‘stars’.

Let’s analyse the story of Block B and Alexandra Burke. As anyone knows in the UK she is a celebrity but her star status is forever linked with Xfactor. She has had some hits but her relevancy is somewhat fading. So when the news was emitted that she was to perform with Block B I was shocked.

But further digging proved that she was going to be performing on the same stage as them in Malaysia, no duet was in the works. But she was said to be an international superstar which I found laughable because I am familiar with her background.

This is not just limited to K-pop but rather to other elements in the entertainment industry. It seems that an act has arrived once they get international approval.

Looking at the recent Korean Film Festival held in London also proved my point, actor Lee Byung Hun who is deemed to be a great actor back home arrived for his screening Masquerade. However the stories focused on the fact that Bruce Willis had come to show support for him. The headlines rang with ‘Bruce Willis is at the Festival”.

Or course this was great PR for the festival, we all know that Korean Cinema is gradually getting some recognition but it is still behind in terms of brand equity and awareness in comparison with its Hollywood counterpart. The cinemas are full of blockbuster movies and even British films struggle. So having Bruce there to support his buddy (they will be working together in a film) was something that Lee Byung Hun was very pleased with.

But then it raises the question of is it necessary to have a western there to prove the talent and capability of this actor?

Is there a certain colonial argument behind this? Probably but that is for the more learned amongst us to decide.

Suffice to say that I take these ‘global takeover’ notices with a pinch of salt.

This need or international recognition in my view is not needed. Yes Korea is a small nation and yes it is only getting recognition recently thanks to its pop culture push but when all is said and done the only ones to lose out will be Korea.

Generating content for the world can be tricky and expensive.

Branching out is important but not at the extent of the ones that actually matter, the Korean public.

They are the ones that will be watching the movies, buying the music and generating revenue for the companies. Korean content should focus on making Korea its priority not pandering to international audiences and creating something that they think will sell. In the scheme of things they are not that important.

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