Global spread of ‘Hallyu’ — all things Korean

Leilany Perez, Opinion Editor

Americans, both young and old, are rapidly becoming obsessed with Korean culture. “Hallyu,” or the Korean wave, refers to the growing global popularity of South Korean culture. Hallyu’s increase in popularity can be seen through the expansion of K-pop, K-dramas, and K-beauty.

K-pop was first popularized in America in 2012 with the song “Gangnam Style” by South Korean pop artist PSY. Although the genre died down for about five years, K-pop has recently experienced a surge in popularity — not only in the U.S., but worldwide. A prime example of Hallyu in American markets is the largely popular South Korean boy band BTS.

BTS stands for Bangtan Sonyeondan — which translates to Bulletproof Boy Scouts. The seven-member group has become one of the most successful K-pop groups in music history; during the 2017 BBMAs, BTS won the Top Social Artist award, beating Justin Bieber, who has been a consecutive recipient of the award ever since its inception. BTS has continued to win many awards — such as Best Boy Band and Best Fan Army in the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Awards — and was nominated in the Best Recording Package category at the Grammys. They were even featured on the cover of TIME magazine.
BTS is not the only K-pop group who has gained attention in the U.S. Other groups like NCT 127 and BLACKPINK have received international recognition as well; NCT 127 performed at the AMAs in 2018 and BLACKPINK has an upcoming performance at Coachella in April 2019 and was featured on Billboard in the past month.

Many American artists have also collaborated with K-pop artists. Some recent collaborations include “Play It Cool” by MONSTA X (prod. Steve Aoki), “Different Game” by Jackson Wang of GOT7 featuring Gucci Mane and “Written in the Stars” by Wendy of Red Velvet and John Legend.

The Korean wave has hit Bear Creek as well. This school year, Bear Creek started its first K-pop club under the leadership of senior Joseph Cremona. Cremona says he started the club because he wanted to give K-pop fans the opportunity to enjoy K-pop with each other.

“I know a lot of people at this school listen to K-pop and not a lot of them have a place to come, dance and listen to [K-pop] because it’s so much more than just the music,” Cremona said. “I thought I could create a club for everyone to come and do that.”

The spread of Hallyu can be seen in other forms of entertainment besides music. K-dramas have also become well loved by many around the world. Streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu have taken this interest into account to offer various K-dramas. Netflix even produces its own K-drama called “Romance Is a Bonus Book” that airs new episodes every Saturday and Sunday.

Sophomore Shawntell Livingston prefers watching K-dramas over American shows.

“K-dramas, from what I’ve seen, always seem to have interesting plots and they can go all out there,” Livingston said. “Most American shows have kind of gotten really cliché and I feel like the same thing keeps happening.”

South Korea is also known for its beauty products, so it’s not surprising that K-beauty products are hitting the shelves of Ulta and Sephora. With its fun packaging and use of natural exotic ingredients, Korean beauty products are often more appealing abroad compared to their American counterparts.

Junior Devyn Inong, who uses the Korean Elizavecca Hell-Pore Clean Up Mask, says that she prefers K-beauty products over American beauty products.

“A lot of the American face masks that I would use really irritated my skin so when I bought [the Korean face mask] I was like ‘I’m not too sure.’ Inong said. “Then I tried it and it works so well; my skin is always so smooth and soft after I use it and I’m like ‘I’m never going back.’”
Even though South Korea is a small country, its influence continues to spread and gain international traction in the form of music, shows and beauty products.

“I think [the spread of Korean culture] is a really cool thing because [while] it’s really big in Korea, it’s kind of expanding over to the United States,” Cremona said. “I think it’s just a really cool immersive culture that everybody’s able to experience.”