From the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, South Korean TV dramas and popular music gained great popularity in Asian countries such as China and Japan.
In 1997, when the TV drama entitled What Is Love was aired by the Chinese major state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), it ranked second in China’s all-time imported video content. Then, the term Hallyu or the “Korean Wave” first appeared, referring to the global craze for Korean culture.
The Korean Wave landed in Japan in 2003 when the KBS TV drama series Winter Sonata was aired via NHK.
The drama became a megahit, and Nami Island in Chuncheon, the filming site of the drama, was a must-visit destination for Japanese tourists.
The rise of the Korean wave
From the mid-2000s to the early 2010s, the spread of the Korean Wave was mainly led by Korean boy groups and girl groups called idol stars such as Big Bang, Girls’ Generation, and Kara. During this period, the Korean Wave extended its fan base into the global stage, including Latin America and the Middle East beyond Asia, especially loved by young people in their teens and 20s.
The Korean Wave, which had established a solid foundation through popular culture such as TV dramas and music, has been pushing the boundaries of its influence since the 2010s.
As the unique charm of Korean culture is widely known to people around the world through global online platforms such as YouTube and social networking services, the craze has expanded to Korean traditional culture, food, literature, and language, creating more and more enthusiasts.
In 2020, the film Parasite, which was nominated in six categories, won four leading awards at the 92nd Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture, which serves as an opportunity to introduce Korean movies around the world.
The number of Hallyu-related organizations enthusiastic about Korean culture is on the rise. Every year, the number of these organizations increases by 7% and the number of members by 36%.
As of 2020, the total number of members who have joined Hallyu-related organizations in all countries around the world have reached nearly 100 million.
This is a five-fold increase over five years.
The majority of them consist of K-pop fan clubs such as ARMY, BTS’s global official fan club, and BLINK, BLACKPINK’s official fan club.
In addition, other organizations and communities are also active in various fields such as South Korean dramas, food, and tourism.
South Korea: The Silent Cultural Superpower - Full BBC Documentary