Posted on November 20, 2009


Korean pop culture has been extremely successful in gaining popularity in Asia. So successful, that this phenomenon even has its own name. It’s called the Korean wave and according to Wikipedia, it “refers to the significantly increased popularity of South Korean culture around the world. It is also referred to as Hallyu (Hangul:한류), from the Korean pronunciation. The term was coined in China in mid-1999 by Beijing journalists surprised by the fast growing popularity of Korean entertainment and culture in China.” South Korea exports everything, starting with pop music, movies, soap operas and, as this BBC report found out, even hairstyles.

(Un)fortunately, the “Korean wave” had not reached me in Europe and I could discover it for the first time in its country of birth. I first noticed a huge interest in Korean soap operas in my dormitory, where at certain hours a lot of students used to gather in the hall (the only place in the dormitory where guys and girls were allowed to meet) to watch the TV. And my source for Korean pop music was the 7-Eleven store in front of the dormitory, where I used to buy my breakfast. They always had the K-pop songs playing. There’s a bunch of them for you to listen for yourself:

Korean advertising deserves a story of its own. If soap operas and pop music are to a certain extent similar all across the globe, advertising seems to be really different to what we’re used to in the “western” world. There are three examples below. The first one advertises Soju – a  popular and widely available Korean spirit. I find it disturbing that it targets very young people by presenting drinking as a game.  The storyline is also confusing, first they drink a lot, then they seem to have a bad hangover and at the end the main character wakes up to look at the sun, which turns into a bottle of soju. Well, I don’t want to criticize the storyline too, as everybody might have a different taste. The second commercial advertises a new LG phone, called “Cooky”, and obviously targets the female audience. This one perhaps is the most “normal” of all three to me, although I don’t think the feminist movement would share the same feeling. Finally, the third one is something that would be seen as a prank in Europe. I don’t even know what to make of it, well, perhaps my mind is just too dirty…

Posted in: Korea