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Saturday, August 13, 2022

From BTS to ‘Squid Game,’ Here’s How South Korea Transformed Into a Cultural Powerhouse

Dennis Lim did not anticipate himself to be engrossed in a South Korean television drama series on a continuous basis.

The 36-year-old has never seen one and considers himself to be “more of a movie guy” instead. However, he decided to give it a go after being persuaded to do so by friends and being intrigued by the hoopla around Squid Game.

South Korea has long been dissatisfied with its inability to produce ground-breaking cultural exports. For decades, the country’s image was defined by its automobiles and telephones produced by corporations like as Hyundai and LG, while its films, television programmes, and music were mostly consumed by a regional audience, according to the World Bank. Now, K-pop artists such as Blackpink, dystopian dramas such as “Squid Game,” and award-winning films such as “Parasite” are as common as any Samsung smartphone in terms of popularity.

Korea’s directors and producers claim they have been studying Hollywood and other entertainment hot spots for years, adopting and refining techniques while adding uniquely Korean touches in the same manner that the nation borrowed from Japan and the United States to establish its industrial expertise. According to the authors, after streaming services such as Netflix broke through geographical borders, the nation went from being a consumer of Western culture to being an entertainment behemoth and a significant cultural exporter in its own right.

After its release, many of memes and parodies have appeared on the Internet, and there have even been physical spin-offs such as a Squid Game-themed café in Indonesia. There has also been an increase in interest in learning Korean across the globe, and retail orders for the green tracksuits and pink jumpsuits made famous by the series are apparently helping to save South Korea’s suffering textile sector.

South Korea’s cultural production is still little when compared to the nation’s major exports, such as semiconductors, but it has provided the country with the kind of global impact that is difficult to quantify. “Hallyu,” which is Korean meaning “wave,” was one of 26 new terms from Korean origin that were added to the Oxford English Dictionary in September. The infiltration of K-pop by North Korea has been dubbed a “vicious disease.” Dozens of K-pop fan accounts on social media in China have been banned for engaging in “unhealthy” conduct.

The capacity of the nation to punch beyond its weight as a cultural superpower stands in stark contrast to Beijing’s ineffectual state-led initiatives to gain the same kind of influence in the same manner. Censorship attempts by South Korean government have been met with little success in the country’s artistic community. The government has moved to promote South Korean pop culture, passing legislation that allows certain male pop musicians to defer service until after their careers have concluded. This month, Seoul’s Olympic Park was transformed into a big “Squid Game” monument, according to the approval of city authorities.

The meteoric rise to fame and fortune did not occur suddenly. Many years before “Squid Game” became the most viewed television programme on Netflix or before Boy Band BTS played at the United Nations, Korean television dramas such as “Winter Sonata” and bands such as Bigbang and Girls’ Generation had established themselves in Asian and international markets. However, they were unable to attain the worldwide reach that has been linked with the current wave of protests. ‘Gangnam Style,’ the single by Psy, was a one-hit wonder.

It wasn’t until last year, when “Parasite,” a film about the widening divide between wealthy and poor, won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film that worldwide viewers started to pay notice, despite the fact that South Korea had been producing comparable material for years.

Media in South Korea is subject to censorship for material that is judged violent or sexually explicit, however Netflix programmes are subject to less harsh restrictions than those shown on local television networks. Creators also claim that domestic censorship restrictions have compelled them to dive deeper into their imaginations, resulting in characters and narratives that are much more intriguing than the majority of other works on the market.

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