[LETTERS to the editor]Make ‘hallyu’ more than a passing trendHallyu, the Korean pop culture wave, has swept through Asian nations like wildfire. Thanks to the popularity of Korean popular culture, Korea’s image in international society is positive. Moreover, hallyu has been a factor in helping Korea gain friendlier relations with other nations. However, can hallyu continue to spread more widely and retain its public appeal? If Korea wants hallyu to continue, it should work on two important aspects. First, there should be a diversification of cultural context. Second, hallyu should not become a tool of cultural imperialism.
Korea should diversify its cultural context. Currently, the success of hallyu is mostly based on entertainment celebrities. Asians are attracted by popular stars such as Rain, Lee Young Ae and Bae Yong Joon. Bae Yong Joon, in particular, is considered one of the most popular personalities in Japan due to his fascinating role in “Winter Sonata.”
Yet there are risks for hallyu when it depends largely on celebrities. When the popularity of celebrities wanes, so can hallyu. Furthermore, the hallyu fever has been riding heavily on Korean soap operas. However, the themes in the television dramas are reaching their limit. Most drama programs are becoming too similar, with triangular love conflicts as their main theme. If such limited offerings continue, people in other nations might get tired of Korean dramas, leading to the demise of hallyu.
Therefore, Korea must diversify its cultural exports. For instance, Korean food can become an international favorite. Korean food is not only delicious but also nutritious. The study of Korean writing, hangul, should be promoted. Scientific and sophisticated, hangul will be attractive if more opportunities are offered for its study.
Furthermore, Korea should not misuse hallyu as a step for cultural imperialism. Korean culture has already spread to various places in the world and its impact has been substantial. But remember, as always, while there is amity, there is also hostility. Hallyu should not be seen as a means for invading other cultures. Such a perception can cause antagonistic reactions to hallyu. For instance, China recently banned Korean soap operas because they were regarded as a threat to its own television dramas. In other words, China feared its cultural products might be at risk.
Korea should try to cooperate with other nations to develop both its own culture and other cultures. In today’s global society, cultural diversity is essential. Cooperation and the co-existence of cultures are the only way to achieve common prosperity. Overall, hallyu can become a lasting phenomenon if Korea realizes the two preconditions above.
by Lee Min-young