(The Parasite crew at a past gala. PHOTO/COURTESY).
There has been an increase in the global popularity of South Korean culture since the 90s. This includes pop culture, music, movies, entertainment and TV drama.
Pop music and Korean TV dramas have gained a lot of popularity in Chinese-speaking communities hence the origin of the word Hallyu (Korean Wave).
At the beginning of last year 2019, I had no idea what Hallyu was. I then watched this Korean movie by Bong Joon-ho called Parasite and that was the beginning of my journey. The movie was so good that it made me have an interest in Korean culture. It grossed over US$266m with a budget of US$11m and winning 4 awards at the 92nd Academy Awards.
Have you heard about BTS? This Korean boy band debuted in June 2013 and are currently the most popular K-pop band in the world, with two songs topping the Billboard Hot 100 in 2017. In 2018, they won the Top Social Artist Award at the Billboard Music Awards for two years in a row, becoming the first K-Pop act to do so.
The year 2019 was a banner year for K-pop with BTS breaking records internationally in the music industry. This caught my eye and I decided to listen to some of their songs. I got hooked.
Besides these merits, they have made appearances on major US talk shows, such as The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Late Show with James Corden, Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. BTS is rewriting history with the support of their dedicated fans, who are collectively known as “ARMY” that I am now proudly part of. It has become the most successful Hallyu act since Psy.
With no doubt, the 21st century K-pop music, which spans dance-pop, hip-hop, techno, pop ballads, rock, R&B and so on, is one area which is growing more rapidly than the other. The rise of K-Pop on the global arena was probably best represented by Psy’s “Gangnam Style”, which was released in late 2012. The song was the first K-Pop song to reach No. 1 on the British Official Singles Chart. It took 2nd place on Billboard’s Hot 100 in the US, and also topped the charts in more than 30 countries.
Its YouTube video has been watched by over 3 billion since the music video was released. The worldwide success of “Gangnam Style” was preceded by many other K-Pop idol groups in South Korea such as Big Bang, Girls’ Generation, 2PM, EXO, Wanna One, and BTS.
K-pop has become more mainstream. Most people cite an interest in K-pop as the reason why they decided to study Hangul or visit South Korea. In this era, Korean can be learned through platforms such as YouTube; Korean Unnie, language learning sites; TalkToMeInKorean and Korean101, apps; Duolingo and Memrise, immersion programs and even on fan-stes such as Weverse.
BTS’s group leader Kim Namjoon says that he taught himself English by watching the series Friends. Korean is bringing fans closer to their idols and each other. Waiting for subtitles can be very agonizing and therefore learning the language saves you the emotional stress.
The Korea Foundation released statistics related to Hallyu worldwide, and the number of fans of the Korean wave had increased by about 11 per cent – or nearly 100 million – in 2019 over the previous year. As of December 2019, there were over 1,750 Hallyu fan clubs with at least 99 million fans. These are people who are enjoying really good music, movies, great entertainment and learning a new language is cool and fun ways. Don’t get left behind. You need to get on the Korean Wave.