K-pop continues to run strong in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world.
Thailand for one, whose Korean wave or “Hallyu” sparked off with Korea’s unexpected performance in 2002 Korea/Japan World Cup and the Korea’s popular historical drama Daejanggeum, (aka Jewel in the Palace) in 2005 is airing more and more Korean dramas and movies nowadays. Similar examples can also be found in other parts of Asian countries.
While Korean pop songs drove many to study the language, Korean games deprived sleep of many game lovers around the world. The translated novels, comic books and monthly magazines from Korea are also showing sharp increase in sales. Then there’s spread of Korean food as another major contributor to “Hallyu”. All in all, wherever we go it has become increasingly easier to meet with people who’s got at least one thing to say about Korea.
Hallyu Drama: Complicated – Subtle – Emotional
Why are Korean dramas and movies received so well in other countries? We asked twelve office workers in Thai in 20s. Here are their answers;
– A complicated, subtle and emotional plot that is uniquely “Korean”
– Sad love stories that suit Thai sentiment and good-looking actors and singers.
– Great acting that makes it easy to emphasize with the characters and good manners towards fans.
– Opportunity to learn about Korean culture (e.g.) A glimpse into 16th century Korean court through Daejanggeum
– More creative than local dramas.
– Unique personality found within the actors as shown through dramas
Meanwhile those in their 50s or above pointed out to;
– Similar trails of thoughts and sentiments
– Production methods
– Themes of drama/ movies
– Portrayal of reality
All this is good for Korea in greatly improving the overall image of the country, the people and even our products. It’s not just big things like cell phone and electronic appliances but little things like stationeries too. It’s no longer uncommon to see downtown Korean restaurants in Bangkok packed with locals and foreigners out together to savor Kimchi, Bulgogi, Kalbi and other Korean dishes.
Adverse effects of Hallyu
Unfortunately the road to perfection still lies afar as new challenges continue to emerge in forms of internal and external conflict.
Internal conflicts list problem rising within Korean agencies; their high-handed attitude toward locals inviting “Hallyu”; unilateral proceeding of events regardless of local schedule; internal conflict within the task teams; excessive demands of celebrities; misunderstandings due to language barrier; problems rising from contracts; brokers who take advantage of the situation while playing in-between; insufficient marketing and so forth.
External conflict rises from response of local authority that starts taking a wary stance against seemingly excessive inflow of Hallyu; restricting playing hours for Korean games while encouraging development of local games; increasing broadcasting hours of local performances and reports; accusing Korea’s lack of reciprocity in cultural exchange and so forth.
These are the reasons that make us realize there’s still a lot to overcome before we can be fully confident about Hallyu’s future. So what are the things we could do to establish Hallyu as a certified world brand?
First of all we need to be aware our counterparts. At the receiving end of Korean popular culture are those with equal pride of their country and culture. Think of the consequences when we downplay that pride.
Second, we need to define what “Hallyu” is. The concept should not limit itself to movies, dramas and pop songs. Koreans should be at the center of Hallyu and everything else that makes us “Korean”. There’s language, soccer, Taekwondo, food, our custom, our policy, our system, our product and even the way we act. That is what forms the overall image of Korea – something that’s keenly linked with our daily lives. Movies and dramas simply stand as prior examples of promoting that knowledge abroad.
Third, we need to stand firm against external challenges. This includes continuous collecting and analyzing of responses and trends of the nations that import Koreans goods and culture. We should also be notice that China and Japan, which despite their long influence in Southeast Asia is taking a more measured steps in spreading their popular culture. However the influence these countries are having over food, language, concert, sumo, kung fu, tourist resort, extension of investment and college exchanges promises to pose a big challenge to Hallyu.
Four, there is a need to establish Screen Gate system and other professional consulting body to decide on the direction of Hallyu as a main organization for Korean culture. It would be hard to maintain favorable image of Hallyu if we just keep on releasing anything we can sale. We need some kind of system to assure only quality products for our buyers, especially when it comes to movies and dramas.
Such body would also help resolve various conflicts that stem from intervention of unreliable brokers that lead to possible distrust as well as other contract-related conflicts rising from language barrier. It’s good for business, too since we can set adequate prices for our products and better identify the response and opinions of our counterparts. Based on these findings we’d be able to further develop and promote cultural contents that lead the market.
Illegal copies abound
Five, we need to prevent spreading of illegal copies. Easier said than done – but we need to tackle it anyways. According to Naiyason Chantrasri, president of Thai’s Open – World Entertainment International Co., Ltd. There are indescribable amount of copies of Korean drams, movies, music, photos and even Internet games sold at just 1/8 ~ 1/10 of original prices. The quality of illegal copies was bad at first but getting better and better these days posing as a big obstacle to spreading Hallyu. He called for the need of state-level measures and cooperation between countries.
Another worrisome fact to rapid spread of counterfeit goods in case of dramas and movies is that it’s either dubbed or subtitle in Chinese, easily misleading the crowds to think of them as from China. Although such dubbing was required by foreign buyers as one of the conditions for purchasing Korean dramas such turn of events leaves us increasingly uneasy.
Six, in order to upgrade the spreading of Hallyu we need to identify what strikes the chord of each society when supplying our goods. It’s a synergy effect for all, in other words. We make an extended and systemic supply of things that are most in demand to our customers. A friendly soccer match, Taekwondo demonstration, traditional dance performance or Hanbok fashion show could be some of those examples.