The term Hallyu comes from Korean and translates as „Korean wave“. This refers to the rapid increase in popularity of Korean entertainment culture outside the country’s borders. This increase began around the mid-1990s and continues to this day. The popularity is not only limited to the film & music industry, the language, culinary, literature and fashion industries are also affected, among others.
What is Hallyu? Meaning, definition, explanation
The Hallyu movement celebrated its beginnings after South Korea and China established diplomatic relations in the mid-1990s, allowing Korean television series and music to penetrate the Chinese market. At the same time, the Chinese market conquest was not purposeful or planned by the Koreans, but rather coincidental.
Facilitating success in China was the shared culture and history of the two countries, as well as the fact that the genre of television series appealed to the tastes of both Korea and China. The Korean music market longed for an opportunity to expand due to limited expansion opportunities at home, and initially found it in China. In 1999, the term hallyu was finally established for the phenomenon that was occurring when journalists from a Beijing newspaper described the atmosphere at music concerts by Korean bands.
In 2003, the Korean wave finally reached Japan when a Japanese television station broadcast a Korean series. Gradually, the popularity spread to other Asian countries such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia as well as India. Finally, the Hallyu movement reached the Middle East, Africa, and South America before conquering Europe and North America, mainly through the Internet and social media. As the success of the entertainment culture became apparent abroad, the spread of it was specifically promoted and supported by the South Korean Ministry of Culture.
For the purpose of temporal delimitation, the Hallyu movement is often divided into two phases. Hallyu1.0 describes the early period of the phenomenon from its inception until around 2007, a term that encompasses the success of the original entertainment culture, such as the music & film industry in particular. The second phase of the movement, Hallyu2.0, begins immediately after the first phase and, in addition to the original pop culture approach, also includes other entertainment branches such as the gaming industry or the entertainment and communications industry, as well as cosmetics or Korean cuisine, for example.
Areas of Hallyu
Due to the great popularity, new genres have even formed within the wave in various disciplines with determined specifics. K-dramas, short for Korean dramas, are considered the initiator of Hallyu and are thematically influenced mainly by Confucian values. They are mainly about charity, family orientation and sincerity.
The treatment of these values also led to their great success in China. In addition, K-dramas also place a lot of emphasis on music. Furthermore, fans participate very much in the events of K-dramas in the form of discussions on the Internet and social media. A special feature of this genre is also that, in contrast to American series in K-dramas, there is usually no continuation in the form of further seasons, which means that many dramas end after one season or are concluded in terms of content. Due to the worldwide popularity of Hallyu, there are now even organized trips that lead to the filming locations of the South Korean settings of the television series.
South Korean film has also experienced a very big boom in recent years. In the process, its own terms have even been formed in imitation of the American film industry. For example, the area of Chungmuro in the capital Seoul describes the former hub of Korean film and can thus be seen as the Korean equivalent of Hollywood. The term Hallyuwood names the popularity of Korean film in the wake of the Korean Wave and was modified from the term Hollywood. K-Horror is the Korean genre of a horror film and uses above all the fear of the strange and the unfamiliar, whereby this often happens on a meta-level and carries socially critical aspects. Webtoons are webcomics that are distributed online and can be seen as a competitor to Japanese manga.
K-pop describes Korean-language pop music, which is largely responsible for the success of Hallyu. Thus, K-pop does not denote the origin of the performer, but is used exclusively for music with Korean lyrics. K-pop artists are popular abroad mainly because of their physical attractiveness and very often perform as boy or girl bands. The members of these bands are often so-called „idols.“ An idol is a South Korean musician who was recruited by an agency as a young adult and is under contract there. The respective agency is responsible for the training and the „shaping“ of the respective artist. The idols are supposed to embody a certain and predefined image in order to be able to market the music or the band in the best possible way. The writing and composing of the songs is mostly done by the agency. The respective Idols are responsible only for the singing as well as the performance and/or marketing. Before the idols start their music career, they are trained as so-called trainees by the music agencies in various disciplines, which include manners and languages in addition to singing and dancing.
Hallyu also encompasses the worldwide spread and popularity of Korean cuisine. The great popularity led to the opening of more Korean restaurants in major metropolitan areas in Europe and North America. Very popular Korean dishes include kimchi, bibimbap and bulgogi. Kimchi describes the preparation of vegetables by fermentation. Popular vegetables are cabbage, cabbage or radish, which are seasoned before the fermentation process. Bibimbap is a rice dish that can be enhanced with various vegetables, meat, tofu, an egg and spices. Bulgogi can be translated as „fire meat“ and forms a Korean dish prepared over an open fire. For this purpose, beef is classically marinated in advance and often prepared directly at the table over an open fire. A speciality is the marinade with gochujang. This is a Korean chili paste made by fermenting rice flour, soybean flour, chili and other ingredients.