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The Korean wave crashes?

Wednesday 23 January, 2008

I attended (Hallyu) The Korean Wave @ the law offices of Seyfarth Shaw the evening of 10 January, 2008, which was sponsored by the Japan America Society  & the Illinois Humanities Council

This program addressed aspects of “hallyu” — the recent surge of popularity of South Korean popular culture in other countries — in Korea and the United States, and the South Korean government’s involvement in export of Korean cultural products. In recent years, a wave of South Korean pop culture has swept across East & Southeast Asia. In Japan, the wild popularity of Korean television drama called “Winter Sonata” has led to throngs of Japanese women packing tourist buses to sites in Korea. South Korean movies, dramas, & music fly off the shelves in Singapore, China, & the Philippines. This broad phenomenon is referred to as “hallyu” in Korean, meaning Korean Wave. This program will address various aspects of the “hallyu” phenomenon in Korea & the U.S.; the South Korean government’s involvement in the export of cultural products, & the social & economic impact of Korean drama in Japan & East Asia.

Robert Cagle, Asst. Prof. of Cinema Studies @ Univ. IL-Urbana-Champaign, described how the hallyu phenomenon has already crested & suffered from a backlash already. Consul Jung-IL Han of the Korean Consulate General provided the government’s support & perspective. Laura Miller, Prof. of anthropology @ Loyola U. in Chicago added her personal experiences in Korea. Man-Sung Son, President of SMS Productions brought along some of their video.

I wasn’t aware of this hallyu phenomenon, but then I’m not an Asian woman, so I probably shouldn’t have been. That it seems to have subsided says this event might have been outdated even when it was scheduled. From the videos shown, I can see why they are appealing, but consumer sentiment is fickle, so I can also see why it’s no longer so in vogue. I found a couple of things interesting about this: 1. it wasn’t just contemporary stories which were popular, but historical ones as well, 2. women seemed to be portrayed in stronger fashion, against the stereotype we have here in the States. Despite this cultural swoon, I do think Korea is definitely on the upswing economically, & even if the hallyu subsides, we’ll be hearing more from the Koreans. From a business perspective, it looks like it certainly contributed to increased Koran exports & an influx of tourists into the country. Historically, it’s interesting to note that countries which have been fierce rivals are now embracing others’ cultures. Given Japan’s leading role in the region, it’s quite a coup for the Koreans to be so popular there all of a sudden. I think some of this is the accumulation of interest in Asia in general too, & the Koreans benefit by being a democratic capitalistic leader in Asia. btw-I believe The Simpsons tv program is drawn in Korea, so that certainly contributes to a stellar cultural addition. I believe Korean TV in Chicago will broadcast the panel discussion as well.

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