Hallyu, the Korean cultural wave

121018 Kim Sangwoo

Today, Korean culture is catching the world as a whole. From tiny characters printed on notebooks to rhythmical popsong ‘Gangnam style’ resounding in Time Square, Hallyu is flowing throughout the entire earth. Almost all Koreans, as well as me, are proud of this large-looking popularity of Korean culture around the world. For the general Korean public, it is really hard to disbelieve the enormous fame of Korean culture that was exaggeratedly reported by Korean media. However, even though most Korean media inform the aspect of Hallyu grandiloquently, it is not clear that this boom truly gives positive effects to a widening of culture of its motherland, Korea. Even in cases of K-Pop, Korean soap operas, and Korean dishes, it is obvious that Korean culture wave has some problems to deliver the genuine Korean culture to the world.

Above all, K-Pop, which has played a significant role in the Korean wave, is not enough to convey Korean culture. In fact, Korean pop songs are nothing but a tiny part of Korean entertainment culture. K-Pops are produced by several specific entertainment management companies, composed by several specific songwriters, choreographed by several specific choreographers, and performed by several specific idol stars. Receiving attention from Korean public is almost impossible for a tenderfoot pop singer in Korea. Although there came some audition programs for scouting talented Koreans who want to be a Korean pop star, it is still really hard to become a successful Korean pop performer without joining and exercising in a famous entertainment management company. In contrast, if one, luckily, selected its entertainment company well, then he or she could become a really famous K-Pop performer, even if he or she has quite low ability for doing the performance as common pop stars. This fact concludes that Korean pop songs could not represent the genuine cultural level of Korean people. Differently put, Korean pop culture, which is consisted of selected performers from selected companies, does not exemplify the whole Korean culture. In addition, K-Pop even does not have an aspect of accurate musical culture. General famous Korean pop songs have nothing but addictive tunes, which mean they do not have demanded musical worth. What is more, those songs are composed by songwriters, not idol stars. What Korean idol stars do is just doing a choreography made by a dancer, and singing a song made by a songwriter. Showy choreographs with addictive melodies and cynically-pretended raps that are performed by handsome boys or glamorous girls are just enough to catch a normal guy’s mind. For me, it is not the part of the culture of my country, but just a business for commercial purpose. Since K-Pop industry is aside from considering musical value, it is insufficient to play a role to build an appropriate musical culture even in Korea.

Moreover, Korean soap operas, which are very effective to convey the culture of Korean daily life, are pursuing commercial success and limiting their ability. The commercial structure of Korean soap operas is really freakish so that it restrains the development capabilities of Korean soap operas. There are many examples of failure of completing the series due to the bankruptcy of the producer company. Producing a series of Korean drama in Korea is really time consuming and cost demanding. There are litigations from several Korean actors and actresses to the producer company for taking their appearance fee. In fact, half of income from broadcasting dramas is from advertisements that appear at the end scene of each episodes of a series. Because the commercial base of Korean soap operas is weaker than other part of Hallyu, Koreans whose job is related to drama businesses are taking damages from working for a soap opera. Since it is extremely difficult to achieve a commercial success in Korea, several soap operas with modern settings tend to rely on the popularity of star-studded casts and not care about cinematic qualities. In some specific cases, some famous K-Pop performers who have very low ability to do performing, ruin the whole business of drama so that a huge damage occurs. To make short, since the drama business in Korea seeks for business success because they are commercially weak, Korean soap operas are not enough to convey Korean daily culture to the world.

Last but not least, Korean cuisine needs more investments and studies. Because most of Korean cuisine is not yet be able to commercially produced, the worldwide awareness of Korean dishes are currently low. Even though there are a lot of Korean dishes that attract people’s attention such as tteokbokki (spiced rice cake), dakkangjeong(sauced chicken balls), or galbijjim(soybean sauced pork), not many people in the world are aware of Korean dishes. Excellent Korean menus such as kimchi or bulgogi are already praised highly by supreme chefs from Europe. Pedro Subijana from Spain and Thomas Buhner from Germany, who got three stars from Michelin evaluation, complimented the dishes on their nutritional values and balances. Especially, bibimbap received the most tremendous complements from the cooks. However, Korean dishes are not sufficient to convey Korean culture to the world since not so many Koreans are interested in the subject.

To sum up, I think Hallyu is not enough to spread the genuine Korean culture through the world. Take note of Korean pop songs, which are not appropriate to represent the whole musical culture of Korea. Also look at Korean soap operas, which only pursue commercial success and result in low cinematic quality. Only if all Korean people are aware of the true conditions of Korean cultural wave, get out of blind pursuit of wealth and fame, and endeavor to introduce the authentic Korean culture to the world, the genuine ‘Hallyu’ would resound through the world and demonstrate the superiority of Korean culture.



Doobo, S. (2006). Hybridity and the rise of Korean popular culture in Asia. Media, Culture & Society, 28(1),
25-44. doi:10.1177/0163443706059278

Eunkyoung, H., Woosung, C., & Gabshin, H. (2008). A Study on the Relationships Among Hallyu (Korean
Wave), National Image, and Corporate Brand Equity. Conference Papers — International Communication
Association, 1-17. Retrieved from Communication & Mass Media Complete database.

Kim, K. (2006, February 7). Hallyu, Cultural Coexistence or Imperialism? The Korea Times, pp. 1-3. Retrieved
November 18, 2010, from the LexisNexis database.

Lim, L. (2006, March 26). South Korean Culture Wave Spreads Across Asia : NPR. NPR : National Public
Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR. Retrieved November 21, 2010, from http://


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s