Is “Hallyu” a representative symbol from a perspective of culture?

Lingsi Yang
3 min readMar 18, 2021

“And the Oscar goes to… Parasite”, Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite picked up four Oscars in 2020 including the first Best Picture award for a non-English language film in the 92-year history of the Academy Awards. The film went on to make $257 million worldwide, cementing South Korea’s status as a cultural hub, the more impressive is that South Korean cinema only began to garner major international attention in the late nineties. The Korean Wave, also known as Hallyu, is a term used to refer to the increase in global popularity surrounding South Korean culture. Whether it can represent the culture of South Korea or a cultural style?

Hard to define the answer precisely from different angles. Specifically, in the economy, it needs to prove whether it has large benefits to represent South Korea’s economic strength, and in terms of international status, at least now there’s no way to judge whether Hallyu as South Korea’s soft power has the strategy and ability to build international influence with the backing of the government. However, analyze from the perspective of culture or cultural industry, I think it can be used as a cultural symbol to represent South Korea and even a unique style popular around the world.

What is culture? Culture is an extremely complicated word in the English language. According to Williams, by the 19th century, culture was explained as a general process of intellectual, spiritual, and aesthetic development, a particular way of life, whether of a people, a period, a group or humanity in general, and the works and practices of intellectual and especially artistic activity. While he claimed that by the late 20th century, the third definition of culture which is the kind of culture we refer to music, theater, dance, books, artworks, and movies would become the most important. The Center for Advance Research on Language Acquisition defines culture as shared patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs, and understanding that are learned by socialization.

In general discussions about culture, we identify there are Western culture, Eastern culture, Latin culture, Middle Eastern culture, and African culture. However, in just a short span of time, South Korea became the entertainment capital of Asia. “Hallyu” or the Korean Wave has become the synonym of Korean culture and is popular around the world, including K-pop, Korean cuisine, Korean movies, K-drama, Korean beauty, and other entertainment, conforms the attribute of culture because it reveals the South Korean, the lifestyle, social behavior and ideology of this particular group. The government provides support and funding to its creative industries because they wanted to refine their image then they’d have intellectual dominance in the global. The Korean wave of entertainment has gradually translated into other parts of the country’s export culture. Korean cuisine and cosmetics have always been integral to Korea for a long time. In the Korean wave, this is where things really picked up this new wave saw South Korea taking full advantage of 21st century digital technology and social media.

Korean cuisine

The Korean wave has been a tide in the globe, but is also facing challenges with allegations of misogyny and celebrity scandals, the hard nut to crack is how to purify cultural content and improve the cultural image? Needless to say, Korea has been absolutely growing their Korean waves stronger and they seem to be well on their way to the goal of becoming the most dominant media industry in the global.

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