BH Discuss – Is Hallyu used too much to promote Korean Culture?
Go on the website of any governmental organisation aimed at promoting Korean tourism or culture and it won’t be long before you come across something to do with Korean pop culture. Whether it’s the ‘Hallyu Today’ tab right in the centre of the Korean Tourism Organisation’s English language website or the Korea Agro-Fisheries Trade Corporation recent K-Food campaign featuring CNBLUE, wherever something Korean is being promoted you can be guaranteed that an idol or a drama star won’t be far away.
Romantic mushroom, anyone?
In the UK, the Korean Cultural Centre is now into the fifth run of K-pop Academy programme which aims to teach a group of young K-pop fans in the UK about Korean language and culture. This is part of a wider range of events and programmes promoting different aspects of culture and all prefixed with the letter K – including K-Art, K-Film and most recently, K-Literature.
On one hand, many non-Korean people who are interested in different aspects of Korean culture and many Korean language learners found their way to it via K-pop and K-Dramas and undoubtedly Hallyu does have some power as a marketing tool to encourage (particularly young) people to become interested in these things and even visit Korea.
But on the other, is it really right to conflate hundreds of years of history and culture with some manufactured pop culture products? Doesn’t that cheapen them in some way? For someone interested in Korean culture beyond the shiny idol façade, it can be tiring to see it penetrate into other unrelated cultural interests. It can also be very irritating for Korean people who are not interested in K-pop having their country conflated with its media.
And does it even work? Some academics have criticised using K-pop as a tourism strategy because the kind of people who consume K-pop’s ‘buying power is so weak that it’s hard to expect that their affection toward K-pop will lead to an extra consumption of other Korean products or services.’
However perhaps there is also an argument to say that the growing scale of Hallyu inside and outside of Asia has some kind of larger intangible cultural power that will be of benefit to Korea not just now but also in the longer term. Perhaps K-pop’s success now will lay the way for better promotion of Korean tourism and other aspects of Korean culture in the future.
What do you think? Let us know.