1st place winner of 4th Hallyu Essay Contest 2016
Mr. Malcom Kritesh Kumar
Student at Fiji National University

 

As Park sat on her mysterious thoughts waiting for a Korean friend to pick her up and make her friends ring tone stop, she often thought that it would take an in-depth cultural study to understand the allure of K-pop bodyrolls. Hae Joo Kim was born in Seoul but moved to New York with her family in 1974 at a very young age. Now she’s back, armed with a Fulbright Grant, to test the waters of the phenomenon known as the Korean Wave, or Hallyu. Kim has filtered through all the pop and circumstance and is focusing her study on Korean dramas and the music that she thinks makes them such a cultural force.
There’s a particular aesthetic with Korean dramas that’s particularly tied with music. It’s difficult to pin down exactly what the Korean Wave is. Locating a definition is difficult, because in Korea, everything that’s good about the country is now considered Hallyu. It was started by K-pop and Korean dramas, but now its Korean food, B-boys, taekwondo, traditional music, it’s everything.
A term now widely used to refer to the popularity of Korean entertainment and culture across Asia and other parts of the world, Hallyu or the Korean Wave first appeared during the mid-1990s after Korea entered into diplomatic relations with China in 1992 and Korean TV dramas and pop music gained great popularity in Chinese-speaking communities. When one of the first successful TV dramas, “What Is Love”, was aired by CCTV in 1997, it had an audience rating of 4.2%, meaning that over 150 million Chinese people watched it.

Korean pop music, especially dance music, began to gain popularity among Chinese teenagers after it was introduced in earnest in 1997 by a radio program called Seoul Music Room broadcast from Beijing. The decisive moment in igniting Korean pop culture fever in China was the concert of Korean boy band H.O.T., held at the Beijing Workers’ Gymnasium in February 2000. Korean news reports used the term Hallyu, or the Korean Wave, in describing this concert. The Korean Wave, acknowledged in an article published by Beijing Youth Daily as early as November 1999, began to finally be recognized by Koreans themselves from this point.
The Korean Wave landed in Japan in 2003 when the KBS TV drama series Winter Sonata was aired via NHK. The drama became an instant mega hit, making its male hero, Yon Sama, a household name, compelling his enthusiastic Japanese fans to visit various film locations, including Namiseom Island, in Korea. The Korean Wave craze has expanded to Korean traditional culture, food, literature and language, creating more and more enthusiasts. According to the latest figures, there were 987 Hallyu-related organizations as of July 2013 with a combined membership of 9 million people.

One area that is growing more rapidly than any other is 21st century K-Pop, or Korean pop music, which spans dance-pop, pop ballads, techno, rock, hip-hop, R&B, and so on. First gaining popularity in East Asia, K-Pop entered the Japanese music market towards the turn of the 21st century, and grew from a musical genre into a subculture among teenagers and young adults of East and Southeast Asia.

The rise of K-Pop on the global stage is probably best represented by Psy Gangnam Style, which swept the world as soon as it was released in late 2012. The song was the first K-Pop title reach No. 1 on the British Official Singles Chart, took 2nd place on Billboard Hot 100 in the US, and also topped the charts in more than 30 countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia, Canada, and Australia.
The worldwide success of Gangnam Style was preceded by a surge of K-Pop idol groups, such as TVXQ, Super Junior, Big Bang, 2NE1, Beast, Girls Generation, 2PM and Wonder Girls, who dominated pop music markets across Asia. TVXQ had a total of 65 tour concerts in Japan from 2006 to 2012, bringing together about 700,000 fans and selling over 6.3 million albums, while in late 2009 Wonder Girls became the first Korean group to enter the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.

The popularity of K-Pop singers is largely based on their excellent vocal abilities, dazzling stage presence and well-choreographed, impeccable dance performances among other things. While they may look comfortable and charismatic on stage, their performance is the result of many years of hard work. More recently, K-Pop idol groups have tended to be more interested in joint performances with other performers contracted with the same agency. One of the most successful events of this kind took place in June 2011 when the artists of SM Entertainment staged a joint concert at Le Zenith de Paris in the French capital, attracting over 7,000 fans.

The year 2011 saw similar events held in several different cities around the world, starting with a K-Pop Festival that attracted over 45,000 fans to the Tokyo Dome in July. JYJ had concerts in Spain and Germany, and the artists of CUBE Entertainment performed in Britain and Brazil. In October, Girls Generation held a special concert at Madison Square Garden in New York whose success was covered on the front page of New York Daily News with a large photo of a concert scene and the rather sensational headline, Attack of the K-Pop Stars. In February the following year, another major K-Pop festival was held at the Palais Omnisports Bercy Stadium in Paris with over 10,000 fans coming from across Europe to fill the entire stadium.

However, to put it negatively, it’s sappy, more artistically, it’s yearning. Koreans are very in tune with the emotions of loss and separation. One has to be careful a bit, but what was heard from the drama producer was, and that it sounds cliché, that it’s the Han. Often melodramatic, stories, the long-held sentiment of Han is embedded in their narratives about success, stardom, family tragedies, filial piety, and even romance. What is interesting about this phenomenon is that the personal lamentations brought about collective catharsis on a national level. This paper proves that Han is an experiential reality to contemporary Koreans, which is revisited and relived through the collective memory and national identity in present day Korea in the wake of the Korean Wave phenomenon.

The Korean Wave literally meaning ‘flow of Korea referring to the increase in global popularity of South Korean culture since the 1990s. First driven by the spread of K-dramas and K-pop across East, South and Southeast Asia during its initial stages, the Korean Wave evolved from a regional development into a global phenomenon, carried by the Internet and social media and the proliferation of K-pop music videos on YouTube.

Much of the opulence of the Korean Wave owes in part to the development of social networking services and online video sharing platforms such as YouTube, which have allowed the Korean entertainment industry to reach a respectable overseas audience. Use of these mediums in smoothing the way for boosterism, dispensation, and utilization of various forms of Korean entertainment the K-pop in particular has contributed to their surge in worldwide popularity since the mid-2000s. As such the Korean Wave encompasses the global awareness of different aspects of South Korean culture including film and television K-pop, manhwa, the Korean language, and Korean cuisine. Some commentators also consider traditional Korean culture in its entirety to be part of the Korean Wave. American political scientist Joseph Nye interprets the Korean Wave as “the growing popularity of all things Korean, from fashion and film to music and cuisine.”

Han is frequently translated as sorrow, spite, rancor, regret, resentment or grief, among many other attempts to explain a concept that has no English equivalent. Han is an inherent characteristic of the Korean character and as such finds expression, implied or explicit, in nearly every aspect of Korean life and culture.Han is sorrow caused by heavy suffering, injustice or persecution, a dull lingering ache in the soul. It is a blend of lifelong sorrow and resentment, neither more powerful than the other. Han is imbued with resignation, bitter acceptance and a grim determination to wait until vengeance can at last be achieved.

Han is passive. It yearns for vengeance, but does not seek it. Han is held close to the heart, hoping and patient but never aggressive. It becomes part of the blood and breath of a person. There is a sense of lamentation and even of reproach toward the destiny that led to such misery. It has often been fascinated by non-western emotional states and how they can shine a light onto how humanity relates to its emotions. It is thought to demonstrate that emotions are not entirely innate but also reflections of the society we live in, and that knowing this we can change both ourselves and the society we live in.

Being a melancholic fool by nature, one that has taken the interest for a while is the Korean concept of Han. A complex intermingling of historical, collective and personal sorrow an acceptance of a bitter present and a hope of a better future. There are also some suggestions of resentment and a sense of unresolved vengeance. It is sometimes described as both unique to and an essential component of Koreans’ emotional lives. The Korean colleagues put it quite simply as, Han a collective sense of bonding based on suffering and hardship.

The bonding aspect here is important as it binds a people together, in a non-market based sense of identity. It is a collective feeling and it is thought an interesting bridge for the people between the psychological interior of emotions inside othe heads/hearts and the social aspect of emotions and responses to social situations.

The Korean poet Ko Eun described it thus, “We Koreans were born from the womb of Han and brought up in the womb of Han.” Probably the most well-known reference to it in Western culture is the episode of series 5 the West Wing entitled ‘Han’. It describes the plight of a North Korean pianist who is asked not to defect which he wanted to do in order to preserve the hopes of nuclear non-proliferation talks with the two countries.

President Bartlett (Martin Sheen) describes it thus, “There is no literal English translation. It’s a state of mind. Of soul, really. A sadness. A sadness so deep no tears will come. And yet still there’s hope.” There is a good description from the Korean-English translator David Bannon:”The term han cannot simply be translated as “resentment” for every book, article or poem. The phrasing must match the usage—a tricky thing with all words, especially so with a term that has vastly complex meaning to Koreans.

In 1994 in Paris, the late and hugely respected Korean writer Park Kyong-Ni spoke in greater detail about Han and her comments challenge the notion of Han containing resentment, “If we lived in paradise, there would be no tears, no separation, no hunger, no waiting, no suffering, no oppression, no war, no death. We would no longer need either hope or despair. We would lose those hopes so dear to us all. We Koreans call these hopes Han. It is not an easy word to understand.”

Han is a characteristic feeling of the Korean people. But it has come to be seen as a decadent feeling, because of the 36-year Japanese occupation. It is understood simply as sorrow, or resignation, or a sigh. Some have compared it to the Japanese word ourami, meaning hate or vengeance, but that is quite absurd. This nonsense is the result perhaps of the identity of the Chinese character or it may be a kind of left-over from the Japanese occupation. The Japanese word ourami evokes images of the sword and the seeds of militarism, and is a characteristic feeling of the Japanese, for whom vengeance is a virtue. Therefore the Japanese word ourami is completely different from the Korean word Han. Han is an expression of the complex feeling which embraces both sadness and hope. The sadness stems from the effort by which we accept the original contradiction facing all living things, and hope comes from the will to overcome the contradiction.

K-pop then is the synthesis of Western and Eastern influences, yet it developed a distinct identity. Together, though, the hybridization of music forms and organization of star-making processes, Korean popular culture has prepared itself for forays into not only within the country but to the international markets.

Contemporary Korean pop culture has been spreading around the world in what has been called the Korean Wave. Korean cultural events, like concerts and exhibits, are also being held across the world. K-pop employs rap only during the verses, singing choruses in a pop style. It contains some random ‘hip hop’ or ‘rap’ or interpolations of the above. It represented a break not only musically, but shifted social views as it rejected the older generations conservatism. In the ’90s it was all about whether or not the government would allow people to have dyed hair on TV and to a lesser extent, tattoos. So the fact that the lead member of one of the most popular boy groups in Korea “G-Dragon” is putting out a song and video that has a curse word in the title is news.

It has generally been understood as a sort of resentment. But to think it means both sadness and hope at the same time. You can think of Han as the core of life, the pathway leading from birth to death. Banno goes on to cite a good example from Korean literature, “The inevitability of fate frequently fuels han in the arts. Korean television and films are informed by han, as are older forms of tragedy, such as P’ansori performance songs and folk tales. As a basic rule, however, one must always go beyond western interpretations of non-western concepts and listen to the creators of the concept itself, the Korean people.

The Korean Wave now seems to be expanding to other cultural areas such as food and culinary traditions. Restaurants serving traditional Korean dishes began to open in the world leading metropolises such as New York, London and Paris, attracting praise even from the choosiest gourmets. Kimchi, Bulgogi, Bibimbap and other dishes loved by Korean people through many generations are now beginning to appear in homes around the world.

Chefs in some restaurants in the United States began to combine traditional Korean dishes with Western traditions, creating the Bibimbap Burger, Kimchi Hotdog and Gochujang Steak for New Yorkers who are always ready to accept whatever new and exotic. Similarly, the number of Korean restaurants increased to about 100 in Paris alone, with many customers now being local French citizens, although in the past only Korean expatriates and their Asian friends formed the majority of customers. According to the latest research, the most popular dishes served by the Korean restaurants in Paris are bibimbap and bulgogi of which the former is particularly highly regarded for it nutritional balance as well as its flavor and taste. In July 2012, a special Korean style dinner was held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London to celebrate the London Olympic Games. The 300 or so guests were greatly impressed by the Korean dishes served at the dinner.

The publication in English of “Please Look After Mom,” a novel by Shin Kyung-sook, by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group in the United States in April 2011 was regarded as a sign of the Korean Wave spreading to the international literary world. The book was listed in Amazons top ten bestsellers as soon as it was released on the American market, and was promptly published in about 30 countries in Asia including Japan and Europe, and in Australia. In June 2012, the author held a successful meeting in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, to mark the publication of her work in the Slovenian language. Then, another work, Li Chin, was translated into French and published by the French publishing company Philippe Picquier. Gong Ji-young is another very successful Korean novelist of our time some of whose works, Our Happy Hours (2005), My Joyful Home (2007) and The Crucible (2009) were made into massive box-office hit.

For contemporary Korean novels, the last two decades have offered novelists precious opportunities to find new readers overseas. Korean novels translated into foreign languages during the period include Secrets and Lies (Russian, 2009) by Eun Heekyung, The Rainy Spell, Firewood, and Sailing Without a Mast (Swedish, 2009) by Yun Heunggil, and A Distant and Beautiful Place (Chinese and Turkish, 2010) and Contradictions (Bulgarian, 2010) by Yang Gui-ja. The opening of the Korean Studies Department in Sofia University, Bulgaria, in 1995 led to the interpretation of a selection of Korean contemporary novels and short stories for local readers including A Dwarf Launches a Little Ball by Cho Sehui and Our Twisted Hero by Yi Mun Yol.

The global craze for K-Pop has resulted in greater attention being paid to Korean literary works and the Korean language, particularly among young people. The first generation of Korean modern artists represented by Nam June Paik, who is considered to be the founder of video art, was followed by a new generation of distinguished artists.Koreas rapid economic growth in the 1970s resulted in the establishment of numerous public and private art institutions of which about 60 are located in downtown Seoul. As for international art events, the Gwangju Biennale launched in 1995 has grown to be a major contemporary art exhibition in Asia.

The launch of the National Dance Company of Korea in 1962 provided the momentum for a surge of interest in modern dance in Korea. The changed environment eventually led to the birth of a great dancer, who are now credited as Korea’s first avant-garde dancer and premier performance artist
Korea in the 1980s saw the foundation of two ballet companies, Universal Ballet (1984) and Seoul Ballet (1986), which are still actively producing classical ballet performances in Korea and abroad.

Korean theater goers have recently begun to pay more attention to musical comedies presented on theater stages. The increased demand for good-quality musicals has resulted in the performance of world-famous musicals such as Jekyll & Hyde, Chicago and Cats either by the original or Korean teams, and the production of new musicals written and directed by Korean talents. Some of these Korean productions have been invited to perform in Japan and Southeast Asia. Koreans thriving musical theater scene has resulted in the creation of a group of stars such as Choi Jung-won, Nam Kyung-joo and Jo Seung-woo, whose reputation has grown with stage musicals, and Yoon Bok-hee, Insooni and Ock Joo-hyun who have become great musical actresses based on their success on the K-Pop stage.

The Korean classical music community has continued to produce artists of the highest international standard in both vocal and instrumental music. For instance, five young Korean artists won five prizes in the disciplines of piano, solo vocal and violin at the International Tchaikovsky Competition held in 2011. Korea has continued to produce distinguished vocalists of whom Sumi Jo (soprano), Hong Hei-kyung (soprano), Shin Youngok (soprano), Kwangchul Youn (bass) and Samuel Yun (bass baritone) are eagerly sought after by classical music lovers in many parts of the world. Regarding instrumental music, Yeol Eum Son (piano), Dong-hyek Lim (piano), Sarah Chang (violin) and Zia Hyunsu Shin (violin) regularly perform for their fans – mostly in Korea, the USA, and various European countries. Lee Hee-ah, a four-fingered pianist, is also a widely acclaimed pianist not only for her great performances.

The great overseas success of What Is Love? (MBC) and Winter Sonata (KBS) in China and Japan played an important role in boosting the craze for Korean TV dramas across Asia and beyond. These hits were followed by Dae Jang Geum (MBC), an epic TV series about an orphaned kitchen cook who went on to become the King’s first female physician. Originally aired between 2003 and 2004, the drama became one of the highest-rated TV dramas in Korea before being exported to 87 countries around the world including the Islamic states like Iran where it received as much as 80% of the viewers to fascinate viewers with its portrayal of traditional Korean culture such as Korean Royal Court cuisine and traditional costumes and medicinal knowledge.The remarkable success story of Korean TV dramas continued in the 2010s with Big Thing, Giant, Secret Garden, Love Rain and That Winter, The Wind Blows. Of these, Love Rain was exported to Japan for KRW 9 billion and That Winter, the Wind Blows to some local broadcasters in North America as well as ten Asian countries including China and Japan.

The worldwide popularity of Korean pop culture resulted in the re-emergence of Hallyu (Korean Wave) movie stars such as Bae Yong-joon, Jang Donggun, Lee Seo-jin, Kwon Sang-woo, Won Bin, Jang Keun-suk, Lee Byung-hun, Rain, Jun Ji-hyun and Bae Doona. Of these, the last four have appeared as main characters in Hollywood movies. The outstanding international reputation that certain K-movie directors and stars enjoy today is in part due to the international film festivals held in Korea including the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), the Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF) and the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan). International film communities have recently begun to show a keen interest in Korean films and film directors. The increased interest in Korean films among Korean filmgoers has recently produced some mega box-office hits. The Thieves, for instance, attracted 12.98 million viewers in Korea alone, and was sold to eight Asian countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. Several other films also attracted more than ten million viewers including Masquerade (2012), Silmido (2003), Taegukgi (2004), The King and the Clown (2005), The Host (2006) and Haeundae (2009). Meanwhile, the Guanajuato International Film Festival designated Korea as the guest of honor in July 2011, and showed a total of 76 Korean films including Whispering Corridors and Bedeviled under programs focused on Korean Horror Films and two film directors, Bong Joon-ho and Kim Dong-wo.

The Korean Wave has also been met with backlash and anti-Korean sentiment in countries such as China, Japan, and Taiwan. Existing negative attitudes towards Korean culture may be rooted in nationalism or historical conflicts. In China, producer Zhang Kuo Li described the Korean Wave as a cultural invasion and advised Chinese people to reject Korean exports. In Japan, an anti-Korean comic, Manga Kenkanryu “Hating the Korean Wave” was published on July 26, 2005, and became a number one bestseller on the Amazon Japan site. On August 8, 2011, Japanese actor Sousuke Takaoka openly showed his dislike for the Korean Wave on Twitter, which triggered an Internet movement to boycott Korean programs on Japanese television. Anti-Korean sentiment also surfaced when Kim Tae-Hee, a Korean actress, was selected to be on a Japanese soap opera in 2011. According to a Korea Times article posted in February 2014, experts and observers in Korea and Japan say while attendance at the rallies is still small and such extreme actions are far from entering the mainstream of Japanese politics, the hostile demonstrations have grown in size and frequency in recent months.

Moreover, the Korean entertainment industry has also been criticised for its methods and links to corruption, as reported by Al-Jazeera in February 2012. In the West, some commentators noted similarities between the South Korean Ministry of Culture‘s support of the Korean Wave and the CIA’s involvement in the Cultural Cold War with the former Soviet Union. According to The Quietus magazine, suspicion of Hallyu as a venture sponsored by the South Korean government to strengthen its political influence bears a whiff of the old Victorian fear of Yellow Peril.

An early mention of Korean culture as a form of soft power can be found in the writings of Kim Gu, leader of the Korean independence movement and president of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea. Towards the end of his autobiography, he writes, “Our nation to be the most beautiful in the world. By this he does not mean the most powerful nation. Because he has felt the pain of being invaded by another nation, and does not want the nation to invade others. It is sufficient that our wealth makes our lives abundant; it is sufficient that our strength is able to prevent foreign invasions. The only thing that he desired in infinite quantity is the power of a noble culture. This is because the power of culture both makes us happy and gives happiness to others.”

At the same time from 1999 to 2010 Hallyu was experiencing early success, there was an equally noticeable growth in cultural imports from Taiwan, also one of the Four Asian Tigers. The 2001 Taiwanese drama Meteor Garden an adaptation of the Japanese shōjo manga series Boys Over Flowers was popular over the continent: it became the most-watched drama series in Philippine television history, garnered over 10 million daily viewers in Manila alone, and catapulted the male protagonists from Taiwanese boyband F4 to overnight fame, spawning a sequel and later adaptations by other networks including Korean channel KBS in 2009.

In 2002, Winter Sonata produced by Korean channel KBS2 became the first drama to equal the success of Meteor Garden, attracting a cult following in Asia. Sales of merchandise, including DVD sets and novels, surpassed US$3.5 million in Japan. In 2004, former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi noted that the male protagonist of the drama was “more popular than he was in Japan”. Other Korean dramas released in subsequent years such as Dae Jang Geum (2003) and Full House (2004) saw comparable levels of success. Since 2002, television programming trends in Asia began to undergo changes as series from both South Korea and Taiwan began to fill prime time slots previously reserved for Hollywood movies.

The breakthrough for K-pop came with the debuts of TVXQ (2003), SS501 (2005), Super Junior (2005), and other artists hailed by a BBC reporter as “household names in much of Asia”. In 2003, South Korean girl group Baby V.O.X. released a Chinese single entitled “I’m Still Loving You” and topped various music charts in China, making a huge fanbase there. Both “I’m Still Loving You” and their subsequent Korean single “What Should I Do” also charted in Thailand.

Meanwhile, the popularity of Korean television continued to spread across the continent. Reports about Asian women travelling to South Korea to find love, inspired by Korean romance dramas, began to appear in the media, including in the Washington Post.

In Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka, Korean dramas began to increasingly take up airtime on TV channels in these countries with Winter Sonata and Full House credited to spark the interest in Korean pop culture in these countries. Korean fashion and hairstyles became trendy amongst youth in Nepal and led to a Korean language course boom in the country which has persisted till date. Korean cuisine experienced a surge of popularity in Nepal with more Korean eateries opening in the country throughout the early to mid-2000s. Similarly, Korean cuisine also became popular in Sri Lanka and Bhutan with Korean restaurants opening to gratify the demand in these countries. By the late 2000s, many Taiwanese musicians had been superseded by their K-pop counterparts, and although a small number of groups such as F4 and Fahrenheit continued to maintain fan bases in Asia, young audiences were more receptive to newer K-pop bands such as Big Bang and Super Junior.

Despite this, K-pop itself and Korean television with shows such as Jumong being particularly well received by audiences in the Muslim world have seen increasing popularity throughout the US and elsewhere, with a dedicated and growing global fanbase, particularly after Psy‘s video for “Gangnam Style” went viral in 2012-13 and was the first YouTube video to reach over a billion views. The platform of YouTube was crucial in the increasing international popularity of K-pop, overriding the reluctance of radio DJs to air foreign-language songs in reaching a global audience. A CNN reporter attending KCON 2012 a popular US K-pop convention in Irvine, California said, “If you stop anyone here and ask them how they found out about K-pop, they found it out on YouTube.”

In February 2013, Peru‘s vice president Marisol Espinoza was interviewed by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency and saluted the Korean Wave to Peru. That month, White House officials managing First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama‘s Twitter account revealed that they had gathered Napa cabbage from the South Lawn to make kimchi, a traditional Korean pickled cabbage dish. As an editor of Esquire magazine pointed out, this was considered perplexing because it skewed so far from the White House’s usual fare. The news came shortly after it was reported that sales of Korean cuisine at the British supermarket chain Tesco more than doubled, and there were further mainstream reports of the Korean Wave in Germany and France.

On February 25, 2013, South Korea’s newly elected president Park Geun-hye delivered her inauguration speech, where she promised to build a nation that becomes gleeful through culture, and to foster a new cultural renaissance that will transcend ethnicity and overcome ideologies because of its ability to share contentment. According to The Korea Times, one of Park Geun-hye’s main priorities as president was to allocate at least 2 percent of the national budget to further enhance South Korea’s cultural industry and to seek more cultural exchanges with North Korea.

South Korea has experienced recent growth in the tourism sector, welcoming over 12 million visitors in 2013, with 6 million tourists from China alone. However, that year, a state survey of 3,600 respondents from over the world found that over 66% of respondents believed that the popularity of Korean culture would subside in the next four years.

State-funded trade promotion organisation KOTRA publishes an annual index measuring the reach of the Korean Wave in major countries around the world. The index was calculated by a combination of export data and public surveys. In 2015, public surveys were conducted across 8,130 people in 29 countries. The results indicate the greatest popularity in Asian countries, with Indonesia and Thailand experiencing the fastest growth of those, while there is declining interest in Japan, Iran, and Mexico. Based on the minority interest stage the popularity in rapid growth was not available however, it has shown medium growth in countries like Brazil, Germany and Poland with subsequent decline in Iran and Mexico. Based on diffusion stage countries such as Argentina, Kazakhstan, Malaysia and United States showed rapid growth. Medium growth stage were apparent in countries like Australia, Canada, France, India, Russia, South Africa, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, with decline in countries like Japan. Popularity based on mainstream stage was rapid in countries like Indonesia, Thailand. Medium growth were reported in Chuna, Myanmar, Singapore and Vietnam and of which the country with decline growth is not available.

According to a 2011 survey conducted by the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the total number of active members of Hallyu fan clubs worldwide was estimated at 3.3 million, based on statistics published by official fan clubs in regions where there are Korean Cultural Centers. In the same year, the Korea Tourism Organization surveyed 12,085 fans of Hallyu and concluded that most fans were young adults, over 90% were female, and most were fans of K-pop. South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Tourism (MOFAT) has been responsible for international advocacy of Korean culture. The South Korean government is involved in the organisation of concerts such as the annual K-Pop World Festival.

In the past decade or so, many Chinese officials have expressed positivity towards Korean media and entertainment, including former President Hu Jintao and former Premier Wen Jiabao, who was quoted by Xinhua News Agency as saying: “Regarding the Hallyu phenomenon, the Chinese people, especially the youth, are particularly attracted to it and the Chinese government considers the Hallyu phenomenon to be a vital contribution towards mutual cultural exchanges flowing between China and South Korea.”

A four-member research study led by Kang Myung-koo of Seoul National University published a controversial report in 2013 suggesting that Chinese viewers of Korean dramas were generally within the lower end of the education and income spectrum. This led to an angry response from Chinese fans of Korean television, with one group purchasing a full-page advertisement in the Chosun Ilbo to request an apology from the authors of the study.  Local broadcasting channel GTV began to broadcast Korean television dramas in the late 1990s. The shows were dubbed into Mandarin and were not marketed as foreign, which may have helped them to become widely popular during this time.

Since the mid-2000s, Israel, Morocco, Egypt and Iran have become major consumers of Korean culture. Following the success of Korean dramas in the Middle East, the Korean Overseas Information Service made Winter Sonata available with Arabic subtitles on several state-run Egyptian television networks. The New York Times reported that the intent behind this was to contribute towards positive relations between Arab audiences and South Korean soldiers stationed in northern Iraq. Korean dramas in Israel as a revolution in cultural tastes, and in 2013, popular Israeli newspaper Calcalist published a three-page cover story on how K-pop had conquered Israeli youth.

In 2008, a Korean language course was launched at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, offering lectures on Korean history, politics, and culture. It is hoped by some commentators that the surging popularity of Korean culture across Israel and Palestine may serve as a bridge over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem reported that some Israeli and Palestinian K-pop fans see themselves as “cultural missionaries” and actively introduce K-pop to their friends and relatives, further spreading the Korean Wave within their communities.

Autumn in My Heart, one of the earliest Korean dramas brought over to the Middle East, was made available for viewing after five months of “persistent negotiations” between the South Korean embassy and an Egyptian state-run broadcasting company. Shortly after the series ended, the embassy reported that it had received over 400 phone calls and love letters from fans from all over the country. According to the secretary of the South Korean embassy in Cairo Lee Ki-seok, Korea’s involvement in the Iraq War had significantly undermined its reputation among Egyptians, but the screening of Autumn in My Heart proved “extremely effective” in reversing negative attitudes.

Iran’s state broadcaster, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), aired several Korean dramas during prime time slots in recent years, with this decision attributed by some to their Confucian values of respect for others, which are “closely aligned to Islamic culture”, while in contrast, Western productions often fail to satisfy the criteria set by Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. In October 2012, the Tehran Times reported that IRIB representatives visited South Korea to visit filming locations in an effort to strengthen “cultural affinities” between the two countries and to seek avenues for further cooperation between KBS and IRIB.

According to Reuters, until recently audiences in Iran have had little choice in broadcast material and thus programs that are aired by IRIB often attain higher viewership ratings in Iran than in South Korea; for example, the most popular episodes of Jumong attracted over 90% of Iranian audience compared to 40% in South Korea, propelling the its lead actor Song Il-gook to superstar status in Iran.

Researchers from both countries have recently studied the cultural exchanges between Silla one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea and the Persian Empire. The Korea Times reported that the two cultures may have been similar 1,200 years ago. In the early 2000s, Korean dramas were aired for South Korean troops stationed in northern Iraq as part of coalition forces led by the United States during the Iraq War. With the end of the war and the subsequent withdrawal of South Korean military personnel from the country, efforts were made to expand availability of K-dramas to the ordinary citizens of Iraq.

In February 2012, JYJ member Jaejoong was invited by the South Korean Embassy in Ankara to hold an autograph session at Ankara University. Before departing for concerts in South America, Jaejoong also attended a state dinner with the presidents of South Korea (Lee Myung Bak) and Turkey (Abdullah Gül). In March 2012, former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard visited South Korea’s Yonsei University, where she acknowledged that her country has caught the Korean Wave that is reaching all the way to our shores.

In November 2012, New Zealand’s Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Andrea Smith, delivered a key note address to South Korean diplomats at the University of Auckland, where she asserted that the Korean Wave is becoming part of the Kiwi lifestyle and added that there is now a 4,000 strong association of K-Pop followers in New Zealand. The first Korean drama in Romania was aired on TVR in August 2009, and in the following month it became the third most popular television program in the country. Since then, Korean dramas have seen high ratings and further success.  The French Foreign Ministry acknowledges the status of Hallyu as a global phenomenon that is characterized by the growing worldwide success of Korean popular culture. The German Foreign Office has confirmed that Korean entertainment Hallyu, telenovelas, K-Pop bands, is currently enjoying great popularity and success in Asia and beyond.

In November 2012, the British Minister of State for the Foreign Office, Hugo Swire, held a meeting with South Korean diplomats at the House of Lords, where he affirmed that Korean music had gone global. During a state visit to South Korea in March 2012, Barack Obama remarked that the digital age has enabled people from different cultures to connect across borders.

During a bilateral meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye at the White House in May 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama cited “Gangnam Style” as an example of how people around the world are being swept up by Korean culture – the Korean Wave. In August 2013, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also affirmed that the Korean Wave spreads Korean culture to countries near and far. On October 30, 2012, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered a speech in front of the National Assembly of South Korea where he noted how Korean culture and the Hallyu-wave is making its mark on the world.

In 2010, researchers from the Korea Institute for National Unification surveyed 33 North Korean defectors and found that the impact of shows such as Winter Sonata had played a significant role in shaping the decision of the defectors to flee to the South. It was further revealed that a small number of people living close to the Korean Demilitarized Zone have been tampering with their televisions sets in order to receive signals from South Korean broadcast stations in the vicinity, while CDs and DVDs smuggled across the border with China also increased the reach of South Korean popular culture in the North. In 2012, the Institute surveyed a larger group of 100 North Korean defectors. According to this research, South Korean media was prevalent within the North Korean elite. It also affirmed that North Koreans living close to the border with China had the highest degree of access to South Korean entertainment, as opposed to other areas of the country.

“The happiest moment was when he was watching the South Korean TV shows in North Korea, further stating he felt like as if he was living in that same world as those actors on the show”, was the word of a North Korean defector interviewed by Human Rights Watch.

In February 2013, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that Psy‘s 2012 single Gangnam Style had deeply permeated North Korea, after a mission group had disseminated K-pop CDs and other cultural goods across the China–North Korea border.

On May 15, 2013, the NGO Human Rights Watch confirmed that entertainment shows from South Korea are particularly popular and have served to undermine the North Korean government‘s negative portrayals of South Korea.

South Korea’s tourism industry has been greatly influenced by the increasing popularity of its media. According to the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), monthly tourist numbers have increased from 311,883 in March 1996 to 1,389,399 in March 2016.

The Korean Tourism Organisation recognises K-pop and other aspects of the Korean Wave as pull factors for tourists, and launched a campaign in 2014 entitled “Imagine your Korea”, which highlighted Korean entertainment as an important part of tourism. According to a KTO survey of 3,775 K-pop fans in France, 9 in 10 said they wished to visit Korea, while more than 75 percent answered that they were actually planning to go. In 2012, Korean entertainment agency S.M. Entertainment expanded into the travel sector, providing travel packages for those wanting to travel to Korea to attend concerts of artists signed under its label.

Conclusively, many fans of Korean television dramas are also motivated to travel to Korea, sometimes to visit filming locations such as Nami Island, where Winter Sonata was shot and where there were over 270,000 visitors in 2005. The majority of these tourists are female. K-drama actors such as Kim Soo-hyun have appeared in KTO promotional materials.