The Rise In "Korean Wave" And Everything About It

The rise of Kdramas, K-pop, and everything Korean in recent years

What do you think when you hear of Korea or anything that is Korean? Do you think of Samsung, the electronics brand, or do you think of kimchi, a side dish of fermented vegetables? But with the recent globalization of Korean culture, when Gen Z hears of Korea, they think of Kpop or Kdramas. The recent rise of the popularity of K-pop, Kdramas, and Korean culture has led to the “Korean Wave.”

korean dance
image by veem

What is the "Korean Wave"?

During the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, after Korean and Chinese diplomatic relations improved, there was a rise in the popularity of Korean dramas and Korean pop, or what is now known as K-pop. After this period of time, towards the early 2000s and especially during the 2010s, Korean culture and entertainment spread globally. 

The term Korean Wave describes the increasing popularity of Korean culture globally. There is another term for “Korean Wave,” which is also widely used, Hallyu wave. This term is derived from the Chinese phrase 韩流 han liu, which literally means ‘from Korea’. Afterward, many people started using the term Hallyu for anything related to the Korean Wave and the spread of Korean culture globally. 

The start of the Korean Wave in the early 1990s was due to the success of multiple television dramas such as What Is Love, which aired in 1997 and gained popularity and attention in China.

Another television drama worth mentioning is Winter Sonata, which aired in 2003 in Japan and also gained popularity and attention. To this day, the filming location of the drama, Nami Island in Chuncheon, Korea, is visited by many fans of the drama

popular location for kdrama filming
Nami Island, Korea. Image Source

After the rise of Korean television dramas, there was the rising popularity of Korean pop music. One of the first K-pop bands that became popular and well-known throughout Korea and China during the 1990s was H.O.T., and they were the first K-pop boy band that performed overseas in 2000.

During the late 2000s and early 2010s, more and more K-pop bands and artists became worldwide known. In 2012, Psy’s Gangnam Style became viral and was the first youtube video to gain more than a billion views. 

After the worldwide popularity of Kdramas and K-pop, Korean culture, beauty, and cuisine became more well-known. Kimchi, Korean BBQ, and japchae (Korean glass noodles) are all popular Korean dishes.

Maybe you have tried these before, but don’t remember the names of these Korean foods. Korean beauty products have also been getting attention for their convenient and satisfying results. 

korean preserved vegetables
Korean fermented vegetables, kimchi Image Source

Kdramas, K-pop, culture, beauty, and cuisine are all part of the Korean wave and the spread of Korean culture worldwide. 

'Annyeonghaseyo, Kamsahamnida'

'Hello, thank you' in Korean, was one of the first phrases I learned from watching Korean dramas or often shortened to Kdramas. Korean dramas

have been rising in popularity worldwide since the late 2000s and early 2010s. Kdramas first gained overseas popularity in China, with the success of What is Love and Winter Sonata. Many Kdrama fans may have not heard of these old dramas, but I assure you that both dramas are marvelous and live up to their popularity. 

classic kdrama filmed in nami island
Classic Kdrama, Winter Sonata Image Source

With the rise of Kdramas in the late 2000s, it became more accessible for international viewers. In 2009, the drama streaming site, Dramafever was founded and it provided viewers with a place to watch Kdramas with English subtitles and many other languages.

Dramafever became the place for international viewers to watch Kdramas along with many other rising streaming sites such as Viki and Netflix eventually started streaming and producing Kdramas. 

Kdramas became more accessible for international viewers and became more well known globally. Some of the most popular dramas for international viewers are Boys Over Flowers (2009), which was based on a popular Japanese manga, Hana Yori Dango, Heirs (2013), My Love from the Star (2014), Moonlight Drawn by Clouds (2016), Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo (2016), Descendants of the Sun (2016), Goblin: The Great and Lonely God (2017), Hospital Playlist (2020), and Crash Landing on You (2020).

These Kdramas have all been popular in these past few years, with a lot of the credit going towards the international streaming websites. 

Personally, I started watching Kdramas in 2016, with Descendants of the Sun being the first Kdrama I watched. I remember when I first watched it on Dramafever, (now nonexistent), many of my friends around me were also watching it too. Every week, we would wait for the new episodes to come out to watch and discuss them together.

This drama was Song Joong-ki’s first drama after being discharged from military duty and he plays a special forces unit captain, Yoo Si-jin, and meets the doctor, Kang Mo-yeon, played by Song Hye-kyo. This drama incorporates action and romance and keeps you on the edge of your seat all throughout the 16 episodes. 

one of the most popular kdramas
Descendants of the Sun Image Source

Another few of my favorites are Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo and Goblin: The Great and Lonely God. One of my favorite aspects about Kdramas is that there are a lot of different varieties and genres to watch.

There’s humor, school life, romance, slice-of-life, fantasy, historical, and many others too. Different genres for different days and different moods. But the international success of Kdramas is due to the rise of the Korean Wave.

"Oppan Gangnam Style" and the horse dance

I’m sure you’ve heard of the lyrics “Oppan Gangnam Style” and seen the horse dance that trended worldwide in 2012. The K-pop song “Gangnam Style” was released in 2012 by Psy and his music label YG Entertainment. The success of this song is due to its catchy rhythm and eye-catching dance.

“Gangnam Style” was the first Youtube video to reach 1 billion views, making it the first K-pop to have such great international success but also it was a milestone on Youtube and media platforms. As of 2021, the music video of “Gangnam Style” is the 10th most viewed Youtube video worldwide and one of the only K-pop videos with the most views currently.

The success of Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” paved the way for more attention for other K-pop music and groups and the Korean Wave. Other K-pop groups such as Exo, BTS, Got7, Seventeen, Blackpink, Twice, and many others became more popular internationally.

Many K-pop groups have tours in different countries around the world and some of them, such as NCT and BTS have performed on Western music stages. There are K-pop music festivals outside of Korea, like KCON, where many K-pop artists perform for international audiences. 

popular kpop bands
Popular K-pop bands in recent years: Exo, BTS, Big Bang, Blackpink

In recent years, BTS is one of the K-pop groups with the most international success in the Western music market. In 2017, the group won Top Social Artist at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards, making them one of the first K-pop groups to win a Billboard Music award and have successfully performed at the American Music Awards, 2019 New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square, New York. Their success in the western music market is due to their unique style of music and their prominence on social media and the internet. 

I think the success of many of the K-pop groups is because the groups take advantage of marketing methods and take into account who their target audience is. After topping charts in Korea, many K-pop groups target their music towards the western audience and the international audience. Instead of just singing in Korea, these groups would also sing in English and other languages.

Also, many groups consist of members not only from Korea but also from other countries and speak many different languages. This is why K-pop groups have been able to connect better with international audiences in recent years continuing the Korean Wave. 

Korean culture, food, and more!!!

With more people watching K-dramas and listening to K-pop, Korean culture has spread worldwide and is known by more people. Korean beauty products are now more well-known and used by many, like Korean beauty face masks and makeup products. Not only have they been useful, but also easy to purchase and find. 

Korean cuisine is also more well-known since the start of the Korean Wave. Foods such as Korean BBQ, japchae (Korean glass noodles), or kimchi are all really popular. I personally really enjoy eating Korean foods because they are really flavorful and have many different ingredients.

One of my favorites is japchae, glass noodles. It’s a cool and light dish, perfect for the summer, and is made with glass noodles with mixed vegetables and meat or tofu. It is usually served as a side dish, but I like eating it just by itself. 

korean glass noodles
Japchae, Korean glass noodles Image Source

Korean culture, Kdrama, K-pop, and anything Korean have all been spread globally due to the Korean Wave. More and more attention has been given to the recognition of different cultures in the world and more global awareness of people from different backgrounds.

college student with too many interests and hobbies to explore but too little time

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