For Hallyu’s success, look to Hong Kong

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For Hallyu’s success, look to Hong Kong


Hong Kong may have been a British colony, but for two months every spring, the city-state celebrates French arts and culture. The 19th Le French May, which ended last week, presented 39 performances and exhibitions on French contemporary arts that are hard to find in Asia, highlighting France’s cultural power.

Le French May was first held in 1993 and is organized by the Consulate General of France and the Alliance Francaise of Hong Kong. French artists representing various contemporary art and cultural genres, such as opera, fine art, photography, pop art, cinema and dance, participate in the event.

Gilles Bonnevialle, consul for culture, education and science at the Consulate General of France in Hong Kong and Macau, said that Hong Kong was selected as the host of the festival because the city serves as the gateway to China and is the most Westernized Asian city. Behind the 19-year success of the event have been the 10,000 French citizens residing or working in Hong Kong. Although the French government hosted French cultural festivals in other countries, including Mexico, they remained one-time events because of lack of local support.

The K-pop concerts in Paris this month were an unexpected success. There, in the cultural center of Europe, European girls raved about Korean pop groups and foreign press paid attention to the start of the Korean Wave in Europe. In China, the Korean television series “Dae Jang Geum” really started the Korean Wave in 2005. Wherever you went, you could hear the drama’s theme song because so many people used it as their cellphone ringtone. Korean restaurants became a favorite date spot for savvy young Chinese. However, once the series ended, the Korean Wave receded in less than a year.

Korean pop culture should not be complacent about its French feat. In order to continue and boost the popularity of Korean culture around the globe, we need to promote various cultural products. How about works of calligraphy on traditional hanji paper? The fusion performances that meld traditional Korean music with b-boy dancing are also cultural products with great potential to garner widespread support abroad. Beijing and Shanghai would make the perfect bases from which to promote Korean culture. After all, the floating Korean population in Beijing and Shanghai is more than 200,000. The French consul said he was envious of the ticket-buying power of overseas Koreans.

*The writer is the JoongAng Ilbo’s Hong Kong correspondent.

By Cheong Yong-whan
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