Washed Fresh By The Wave

The Global Image of Korea is Repainted Anew by the Hallyu Wave

The Global Image of Korea is Repainted Anew by the Hallyu Wave

In 2015, $2.82 out of $7.03 billion of total Korean exports were cultural and entertainment contents including television dramas and music, as calculated in a study done by The Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) and the Korea Foundation for International Culture Exchange (KOFICE) (Hicap 2016).


Poster of the extremely popular K-drama Winter Sonata. Source: The Fangirl Verdict

That impressive number is the direct result of the Korean Wave – or Hallyu in Korean, a phenomenon defined by Ryoo (2009) as “the popularity of Korean entertainment and culture across Asia and other parts of the world”. The Wave first emerged in 2000s, with the exporting of South Korean dramas e.g. Winter Sonata, A Tale of Autumn and Lovers In Paris, all of which were so well received they drove Asian countries such as Vietnam and Japan into “something of a frenzy in 2004” (Ryoo 2009, p.  139). The following graphic gives a quick yet effective glimpse of the worldwide popularity of Korea’s cultural products.


Source: The Korea Time

More than just economically beneficial to the nation, Hallyu’s probably most valuable ramification is its role in projecting a global image of Korea, one that is no longer negative – “limited to such events as the Korean War and the vicious cycle of poverty, political instability and violent student demonstrations that typified the 1980s, along with the longer-term issues connected to the demilitarized zone and national division” (Ryoo 2009, p. 145). Today’s Korea is viewed in its modern trendiness and rich popular culture, the top word coming up in regard to describing its impression being “Technology” and the fourth being “Psy” with his viral music video Gangnam Style (Kim 2014).

The following video, although quite long, sums up well the Korean Wave and its economic and social impact on the country itself, especially in drawing global attention to Korea:



  1. Cho, SW 2016,The number of Hallyu fans in 2015, image, The Korea Times, viewed 1 September 2016, <http://img.koreatimes.co.kr/upload/newsV2/images/160126_p01_hallyu.jpg>.
  2. Hicap, JM 2016, ‘Korean cultural exports hit $2.82 billion in 2015’, Manilla Bulletin, 12 April, viewed 1 September 2016, <http://www.mb.com.ph/korean-cultural-exports-hit-2-82-billion-in-2015/>.
  3. Kim, S 2014, ‘Nation’s global image just average’, Korea Joongang Daily, 26 July, viewed 1 September 2016, <http://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/news/article/article.aspx?aid=2992573>.
  4. Korean Culture Series & Quick Korean 2016, ‘[Korean Culture Series] Korean Wave, Hallyu’, online video, 25 February, viewed 1 September 2016, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sT7yfX6ufuY>.
  5. Ryoo, W 2009, ‘Globalization, or the logic of cultural hybridization: the case of the Korean wave’, Asian Journal of Communication, vol. 19, no. 2,pp. 137-151.
  6. Winter Sonata poster, 2012, image, The Fangirl Verdict, viewed 1 September 2016, <http://img.koreatimes.co.kr/upload/newsV2/images/160126_p01_hallyu.jpg>.

Author: Minh-Anh Mia Do

book-smart and sugar-addicted || the written word & all things linguistics || email: dmad920@uowmail.edu.au

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