Hallyu is doing more harm than good for Korea’s image


This year has seen a growth in interest in the ‘Hallyu’ or ‘Korean Wave’ linked with K-pop and K-dramas. I’m surprised that the Korean government hasn’t sought to trademark the letter K as this is intrinsically linked with the spread of Korean pop culture.

However this growth and spread of pop culture has led to something negative in my view, a stagnated view of Korean culture.

The image portrayed by these shining and happy idols and actors in the dramas is a world where love and life is perfect. With many fans watching to see their favourite stars the interest in pop culture has soared with many international fans glued to websites and Youtube to watch the latest instalments. In the music sphere, many people stay glued to the internet to see the latest video from 2PM or Super Junior and clamour on international Kpop websites to get the latest news.

Whilst this is generating buzz it has led to a somewhat distorted view of what the nation is all about.

Of course the government is pushing this as a way to increase tourism and interest in South Korea and this tactic is working. But where does that leave Korea as a nation?

You could be mistaken for thinking that South Korea is the land of Kimchi and Idols.

Of course many of these fans are young and want to have the life portrayed in the TV shows and dramas. They dream of going to Korea so that they can live out their Coffee Prince fantasy where they meet their dream man and live a fabulous life. But this is not the reality.

Some Korean people that I have spoken have noted that they feel that they have been tarnished with the brush of being from some sort of promised land. Not every Korean person looks like the celebrities that you see on the TV.

Nor do they know every single Kpop group out there. The streets of Seoul are not filled with K-pop idols.

Then there is a sudden crush on Korean men. The assumption that every Korean man looks like the k-pop idols is absurd. But this image seems to prevail. It is gotten to the point where many girls are exclaiming that they seriously want to go to Korea and meet a hot guy.

What happens when they eventually get there? Well they are disappointed as the image that they had in their head doesn’t match up to the reality.

Looking at the economic and social issues affecting the country, it is safe to say that is not the land of sunshine and rainbows. What country is?

For me Korean culture and pop culture have become interlinked, nowadays I’m not surprised when someone says they are interested in Korean culture and then list K-pop as their main driver.

People forget that the musical soundscape of Korea is large and varied. They also forget that the country has a rich culture and history.

When you see a people and lump them all into this one category as being ‘Korean’ it becomes problematic. Not every Korean person is the same; they have different views and backgrounds.

Furthermore Korean culture is not a hobby that can be boiled down to things like hanboks and Bulgogi. For Korean people it is their way of life and must be respected.

Korean culture for me is linked through the understanding of the history, language, the various traditional art forms and philosophies governing the society.

Understanding a culture comes from first-hand accounts from its people not from the movies or dramas.
The Hallyu wave is selling a false image and one that has been bought by many people.

It’s up to us, the cultural and tourism industries in Korea to change this and remind people that there is more to South Korea than meets the eye.

We must not forget that pop culture and culture are two different things. Pop culture is music and movies. Culture is the language, the traditions of the people.

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