Hallyu Report I – Evidences

Hallyu,  also known as Korean Wave, refers to the spread of South Korean entertainment culture across the globe. The term ‘Korean Wave’ was created in the 1990s by Beijing journalists, who witnessed the exploding popularity of Korean cultural products in China (Kim 2007, cited in Lee 2011).. In most countries across East and Central Asia, Korean pop music, dramas, or movies have long been a prevailing trend. There exists a rage for Korean fashion styles, make-up looks, food, and notably a devoted fan base following every move of top Korean celebrities. That is not all. Nowadays, Korean culture is known and loved by audience not only in Asia, but also in other continents. This widespread popularity is visible in many ways. This article will address evidence for the soaring Hallyu from both the Internet and real life, trace the origin of this phenomenon, and finally, discuss the significance of Hallyu for its homeland – South Korea.

I. Internet Evidence

Today, the Internet has become an increasingly prominent venue for people all over the world to communicate and share their interests. Therefore, a look at several popular social networking sites on the Internet will give us some idea about the international influence of Hallyu.

An analysis of Twitter – one of the ten most popular websites worldwide – shows this astonishing result. 10% of music-related top trends in 2010 involve Korean music group Super Junior, and 2% involve Korean group Dong Bang Shin Ki (DBSK). This shows immense international attention to Korean pop music. Super Junior’s member Kim Hee Chul, in particular, received media coverage in the United States (U.S.) for his global popularity on Twitter, and is nicknamed “Korean Justin Bieber”. Twitter accounts of top Korean stars can reach hundreds of thousands of international followers very quickly.

Facebook, the world’s most visited online social network, has numerous groups and fan pages dedicated to Korean celebrities. Pages created as petitions for Kpop concerts in various countries – such as Italy, Canada, or The Philippines – exist with thousands of supporters each, revealing enthusiasm of Kpop fans from different continents. Hallyu icon group Super Junior’s Facebook page earned over three millions of “likes” one month after being launched officially in June 2011. Even the record label company, SM Entertainment, had around 500 thousand fans across the world one month after its Facebook page went live. This is impressive considering that the official page of Universal Music Group, the biggest record label in the U.S., has yet to reach 60 thousand Facebook fans as of July 2011.

YouTube, the number one video sharing site in the world, is a favorite place for international fans to gain access to Korean entertainment. View counts on teaser or music videos of top Korean pop idols can go up to millions a few days after release. New releases are frequently seen in YouTube rankings for most viewed or most commented videos of the day, sometimes at No.1 spot. Fan reactions on YouTube are impressive enough to catch the attention of Korean companies. Korean record labels have opened official channels one by one and started to invest on promotional activities through YouTube. New YouTube-based activities are being developed, targeting foreign audience. For instance, YG Entertainment aired live-streamed performances internationally on their channel. SM Entertainment broadcasted on YouTube highlights of SM Town Paris Live concert. In 2010 alone, official videos from channels of the three largest Korean record labels generate almost 800 millions views from 229 nations (Yoon, 2011).

The presence of Hallyu fans on Youtube is so appealing that the drama industry had to get involved. In 2010, Korean drama “Playful Kiss” uploaded an exclusively online version through YouTube, and their channel is introduced in five languages. YouTube is rapidly becoming a useful tool for Korean content industry to connect to their worldwide audience. The reverse is also true; fans all over the world upload videos of themselves imitating Kpop dance moves or organizing large-scaled flash mob events asking for Kpop concerts to be held in their countries. This includes, but is not limited to, Australia, Peru, Poland, Belgium, the United Kingdom (U.K.), Canada, the U.S., etc.

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