Hallyu ready for a K-culture takeover?


I WAS not much of a fan of Korean pop culture. In fact, just a few years ago, I didn’t quite understand the appeal of Blackpink (sorry, Flashes) and Crash landing on you. And then the pandemic arrived. I started revisiting some of my favorite American series on Netflix, but got sick of watching those shows again after a few months. I then decided to watch Goblin, which I now call my ‘Gateway Drug’, in June 2020, and it changed my life, or at least my perception of Korea and some of my consumption patterns.

I then started researching the top rated K-dramas and ended up watching shows on those lists. My husband started watching with me and at one point even watched shows on his own. Now we have a ‘K-drama date’ every night, paired with beer, wine, or soju on the weekends. Ramyeon packs are now a pantry staple, and sometimes we even have wrapped tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) and kimchi. I also started to learn Korean language. I am officially a hallyu convert.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines hallyu, or the Korean wave, as “the increase in international interest in South Korea and its popular culture, particularly represented by the worldwide success of music, film, South Korean television, fashion and food. Also: South Korean popular culture and entertainment itself. Yes, the word entered the Oxford English Dictionary this year, more than 20 years after its creation in the late 1990s.

Like many successful national branding and “soft power” campaigns, the global hallyu boom did not happen overnight. It took decades to fly: from planning and government intervention to industry consolidations, strategy execution and impact measurement, it took thousands of hours and hundreds of spirits to achieve the status which the hallyu now enjoys.

History and influence of the Hallyu on the Filipinos

According to Korea.net, the official website of the Republic of Korea, the term “hallyu” first appeared in 1997, when the drama What is Love was broadcast by the state television channel China Central Television (CCTV) and has clinched second place on the list of the most important and popular imported video content.

Japan was then hit hard by the Korean wave when Winter sonata, a drama produced by the national broadcaster Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), broadcast via the Japanese public broadcaster NHK in 2003. Nami Island in Chuncheon, the location of the drama, has landed among the best places to visit for Japanese tourists .

The Philippines were not spared by the invasion of the K. GMA 7 culture broadcast Luminous girl in 2003, considered the first K-drama to air on the Philippine coast. This was followed by a slew of K-dramas, not only on GMA, but also on competing networks ABS-CBN and TV5. These shows have been dubbed into Filipino and have no English subtitles like those found on the Netflix and Viu streaming services, making them easier to sell for the mass market.

The early 2010s, meanwhile, saw the rise of K-pop in the country, with “idol groups” like Super Junior, Girls’ Generation, 2NE1 (which featured finalist Sandara Park from ABS-CBN Star Circle Quest), BigBang, 2 p.m., 4Minute, Beast and ZE: A have stolen the hearts of local fans, according to an article on Korea.net.

Even before K-Dramas and K-pop arrived in the country, the Philippines was home to Korean nationals who wanted to learn English, set up businesses, or just go somewhere warm during the winter. This has spawned a new sub-economy, made up of English-language centers primarily aimed at Koreans and Korean groceries, the latter now increasingly reaching out to Filipino consumers.

“Soft power” strategy

The global phenomenon of hallyu has enabled Korea to inject parts of its culture into the daily life of a large part of the world’s population. Arguably, this is part of Korea’s soft power strategy, a theory developed by former Harvard Kennedy School of Government dean Joseph Nye. He then proposed the concept of “smart power”, where hard power and soft power are combined in a successful national strategy.

In foreign affairs, “hard power” refers to the use of force or coercion to get the rest of the world to do what a specific nation wants, while “soft power” represents the ability to do anything. getting what you want through attraction: “It stems from the attractiveness of a country’s culture, political ideals and policies,” Nye said.

Just a few months ago, K-pop phenomenon BTS gave a speech at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, a day before the United Nations General Assembly. The seven-member idol group accompanied South Korean President Moon Jae-in as Presidential Envoy for Future Generations and Culture. They made their debut at the UN three years ago as part of UNICEF’s Generation Unlimited campaign, which aimed to educate and train young people.

In 2019, another popular idol group, EXO, joined President Moon in welcoming then-US President Donald Trump to Seoul on the last day of the G20 summit. The year before, girl group Red Velvet and singer Baek Ji-young headlined a concert in Pyongyang, North Korea, celebrating the first summit between President Moon and the North Supreme Leader. Korean Kim Jong Un.

“This kind of event is not about lecturing a foreign audience about its policies. Rather, the South Korean government is exploiting genuine interest among fans around the world, as the music videos from the concert have garnered 3 million views and rely on YouTube, ”the university said. Chicago doctoral candidate Jenna Gibson wrote on the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank website.

She said, however, that South Korea had not yet fully harnessed its soft power to influence global politics, as it is “something the South Korean government is still figuring out as it moves on. ‘a focus on national branding to a deeper strategy of soft power. “

Economic and cultural impact

Although Korea’s influence on global politics is not yet as visible, if at all, the hallyu has provided enormous economic benefits to the country, even as much as the gross domestic product (GDP) of some small economies. , during the last years.

Bloomberg reporter Alex Webb summed it up very well: “South Korea has made other megahits – its romantic drams and comedies are lapped across Asia. But the effect of its growing cultural influence may be more economic than ideological. US exports helped sell US stocks. For Korea, exports themselves may be sufficient. He’s not trying to sell his government system, but he has Samsung smartphones, Hyundai cars, and Samyang noodles to offer. And in a world of growing trade tensions, convincing China and the United States to be open to purchasing your products may be a far more desirable outcome. “

The 2020 Global Hallyu Trends report, published by the Korea Foundation for International Cultural Exchange, showed the following economic benefits derived from hallyu as of 2019: nearly $ 6.4 billion from cultural content exports and $ 6 billion from dollars from exports of consumer goods, for a total of hallyu. export earnings of more than $ 12.3 million.

BTS alone contributed $ 4.65 billion to Korea’s GDP, more than the annual output of Fiji, Maldives or Togo, a Forbes article by William Pesek in 2019 revealed. that the group does not make waves on the Billboard charts, the American Music Awards and the Grammys. Not to mention their sold-out concert at the newly constructed SoFi Stadium in California, which sold 214,000 tickets over four nights from Nov. 27 to Dec. 2, bringing ticket receipts to $ 33.3 million.

Chew this while I munch on some crushed ramyeon with the flavor powder mixed in, eaten like a bag of crisps, like the K-drama characters sometimes eat their instant noodles. Happy hallyu holidays!

(To be continued)

PR Matters is a roundtable written by members of the local chapter of the UK-based International Public Relations Association (Ipra), the world’s leading organization for public relations professionals around the world. Abigail L. Ho-Torres is AVP and Head of Advocacy and Marketing for Maynilad Water Services, Inc. She spent more than a decade as an economic journalist before making the leap into the corporate world.

We have a special section each month to answer our readers’ questions about public relations. Please send your questions or comments to [email protected]


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