Hallyu translates as Korean wave. The term is used to portray Korean pop culture hits that go viral in the Western world. Read on as we dive into Hallyu and how Korea uses its ancestry to innovate.
A newborn country
Korea was rebuilt between the 1950s and 2000s after surviving Japanese colonial rule (1910-45) and the Cold War leading up to the Korean War (1950-53), which to this day has no treaty of official peace.
Propaganda ruled Korean culture during its time as a colony. Where the US had a bigger influence on the military, and the Japanese banned American movies and other entertainment on the brink of WWII.
Subsequently, during their military dictatorship regimes, the South Koreans continued to receive propaganda broadcast through the media. This closed political landscape was in stark contrast to the free economy behind the country’s productive superpower, hailing from big brands like Samsung, Hyundai and LG.
Before the war, Korean values were based on Neo-Confucianist ideals. They revolved around a highly structured and hierarchical society. Where a close relationship within families was promoted, with high respect for their ancestors. And men and women were differentiated in status.
This had an effect on clothing, where women wore hats (sseugaechima), and had knives (paedo) attached to their traditional clothing (hanbok). This facilitated suicide in response to common gossip against women that would dishonor their families. Drastic measures like this seem dystopian at best, but they show us the weight Korean society places on the idea of honor. A concept built on conservative values.
After the war, the Korean people needed to let go and relax after so much control and destruction. This idea of escapism was the light behind Hallyu, where entertainment played a big role. From the latest technology to the most impressive story-based movies and TV series.
Starting in the 90s, Korean entertainment crossed borders. K-Pop went international, just like itsidols, from the Wonder Girls to Gangnam Style’s Psy and the latest hit BTS.
Idols,in turn, they have to obey a strict routine, performing at their best both musically and personally. Being a role model is a full-time job for K-Pop artists, whose job it is to honor South Korean values and heritage.
As screens go, they got big withParasiteand small withSquid Games.
Both recently awarded examples of K-Drama drew on the dichotomy of Korean culture in their stories. A hierarchical society seems unrealistic, but that has real value in real day-to-day events in the country. The game between the old power dynamics and the current influential landscape. The same goes for his comic strips,manhwa.
The logomania and bold colors are the uniform of K-Fashion. In addition to a risky take on traditional dresses, Adidas, led by Ji Won Choi, has its own take on the hanbok. Plus, the countless K-Beauty brands that have gone viral, facials, tech LED masks, and the so-called10 Step Skin Care Routine.All for the purity of the clearest, most perfect and wrinkle-free skin defined by ancestral beauty canons.
It sounds like a cautionary tale that has gone viral.
Is Hallyu successful because he uses his conservative ideals as a basis for innovation? Or is Hallyu a coping mechanism that people use to get out of a real dystopia based on old beliefs?
Perhaps ancestry does not lead to innovation. Perhaps the innovation masks what once was, in a brighter, funnier way, helping us fight our demons with more color.
What wave do you ride for your escapism?
Words [email protected]_lhm
Main image: Korean band 2ne1, photo from the Republic of Korea via Flickr
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PostingHallyu! – Does ancestry lead to innovation?first appeared inLove Happens Magazine.