(FOX 44) – It’s Asian-American Pacific-Islander Heritage Month in May, and FOX 44 is talking all about the Korean wave!
It seem to be K-everything right now, and two experts in and out of the classroom weigh in on the rise of the Korean culture in the United States.
If you haven’t ridden the K-wave yet, it might just be time to hop onboard! From critically-acclaimed Korean movies like “Parasite” and “Minari,” a recent $2.5 billion investment on K-dramas by Netflix, to the demand for K-beauty and skincare – and the global phenomenon that is K-pop.
K-everything is red hot. And Korean-Americans actors in Hollywood — like Sandra Oh, Ken Jeong, Randall Park, and Daniel Dae Kim are riding the crest of the “hallyu” wave.
Nancy Kim is a K-pop translator who has worked as the middle-person between the Korean crews and the U.S. groups.
“I think the ‘hallyu’ wave started maybe like 20 years ago,” she says.
Visiting Assistant Professor of the Texas A&M University’s Department of History Rachel Lim believes it dates back even farther than that.
“In some ways, it seems like the export of culture came out of nowhere. But really, South Korea’s whole history, from the ashes of the Korean War, has been built upon a mentality of exporting. Of using exports in order to grow,” says Lim.
In 2012, rapper Psy broke the internet with “Gangnam Style” — the smash hit that sent Korean culture global and got the world dancing. It was the first YouTube video to reach one billion views just five months after its debut.
Lim weighs in and says, “I think that the fact that Psy was such a huge hit and was, in fact…the biggest hit that brought K-pop into global consciousness shows that, in some ways, consumption is very hard to predict.”
When K-pop first emerged in the 90s, it had more humble beginnings.
“First-generation wasn’t global. It was mostly Korean-Americans who knew about first-gen K-pop idols,” Kim says.
She shares her discovery of K-pop for the first time as an adolescent.
“For me, it’s honestly, ‘Seo Taiji and Boys’ who started K-pop, but I think a lot of people think it’s ‘H.O.T.’ When I was, like, in middle school. I used to talk about H.O.T. to my non-Korean friends. And they would just look at me crazy.”
She’s seen the shift over the years.
“Now, if I talk about BTS or BlackPink, everybody knows about it. And I’m not like the weird one.”
K-pop, now in its third and fourth generation, is synonymous with being cool.
“I actually think the story actually has less to do with all of a sudden south Korea’s producing cooler things that it has to do with the fact that Americans and the world are more ready to consume it,” Lim says.
“Everybody is like shocked to see the amount of talent, but I’m like, ‘No, dude, we’ve been talented.’ It’s just you’re seeing it now,” says Kim.
So how does South Korea pump out K-pop idols in an almost factory-like manner?
“There are reality television shows like ‘Superstar K,’ where young trainees will compete to be able to be formed into a band that will then debut,” Lim explains. “But weirdly, because it is engineered, it provides more entry points for fans to connect with people along the stage of their debut. And I think that that’s actually one of the big appeals in K-pop is that it’s not just the band from afar, but it’s you as the viewer who might be seeing these trainees, as they try multiple times.”
Kim ends with saying, “But it’s a tough world. Not everyone just because you want to be a K-pop idol. You can’t do it.”