The Korean Wave: Understanding and Appreciating the Korean Popular Culture

The southern nation of the Korean peninsula may seem like a tiny country. It actually is — it is packed with power, and it is some sort of dynamo in the global arena. But the beauty of this country does not solely lie in its geopolitical power and first-world leanings. Its real beauty can be found in the seamless amalgamation of the old and the new. Much like Japan, the appeal of the South Korean culture is observed in how the old side interacts with the new era (and vice versa). It works like ying-yang.

But, in this modern age, the popular culture of South Korea is very much highlighted and underscored. And it takes the global stage in unprecedented pace, showing no signs of stopping. Getting acquainted with the popular culture of this country may start with knowing the brands that originate from it — Samsung, Hyundai, Kia, LG, among others. If you want to go beyond that, this primer will help you understand and appreciate some facets of the South Korean culture:

K-Dramas

For years, content from the West has been some of the most consumed in the world. The maximalist stories and the bigger than life set-ups are what attract viewers. But something from this little country has already gained traction — K-drama. A lot of people from different parts of the globe have sworn by the addicting qualities of the Korean drama. What sets this apart from the usual is the fact that it is short, usually about 15 to 16 episodes long. Other than the eye-catching visuals, which include the actors, the settings, and the color-grading, K-dramas tackle a lot of topic — from family to high school life and guys who grow blades when they’re stressed or agitated (Blade Man, anyone?)

K-Pop

Years before the ‘90s, South Korean music is dominated by two-beat rhythm music called trots. But when Lee Son Man founded SM Entertainment (one of the biggest entertainment agencies in South Korea) in 1989, everything changed. Eventually, hip-hop group Seo Taiji and Boys entered the scene and incorporated Western aesthetics into their craft. The rest is history. Today, you have big groups, such as BTS, Black Pink, Twice, SHINee, among others. Music experts describe K-Pop as cutting-edge, highly choreographed, and modern, which is why many people are drawn to it.

K-Beauty

Korean spraying skin care product on face

Who would have thought that Koreans will also be a big player in the beauty industry? This could be attributed to the ten-step Korean skincare, which is supposed to give you smooth and glowing skin. Over the years, many people have been into Korean beauty products, which are usually described as simple yet effective. Brands, such as Dear Klairs Korea and Innisfree, are some of the most popular ones.

The beauty of South Korea does not only depend on its first world advantage and traditional cultures. Its popular cultures have also taken the world stage. What is better than this is that South Korea offers what it has, and welcomes people to its arms with open arms. Saranghae!