It seems only yesterday when almost every New Year’s Eve party in Bangladesh had PSY's Gangnam Style playing at full volume. But if asked what the famous catchphrase ‘OppaGangnam style’ signifies, not many can answer. However, that ignorance never stopped anybody from hopping to the horse dance. After nine years, the song has four billion views on YouTube, but that is certainly not the only accomplishment.
The wave of Korean culture that crashed on this country’s shore had lingered on until the next ripple soaked the sand. Breaking their predecessors' records, younger K-pop artists continued to engulf the world with the Korean Wave, also known as Hallyu. The interesting fact is, anyone swept by their music has also shown interest in other Korean practices like their food, beauty and broadcasts.
IbnatSadia, a 22-year-old student of architecture at Military Institute of Science and Technology (MIST), has been a K-pop fan since 2010. Super Junior's music flounced her off the feet when she was a new teen. However, after eleven years not only her love for K-pop has increased, but also her understanding and interest about East Asian culture has grown. She loves Korean beauty products for their efficacy on her skin. “It’s incredibly easy to use Korean beauty products considering their effectiveness. Even among all the stress and havoc of university life, I can have almost salon-quality skin care within minutes,” said Sadia regarding her love for Korean products.
Another fan Anan, a student of English at Jahangirnagar University, buys KoreanRamyeon and Gochujang, a type of Korean chilli paste, from online shops. She sometimes cooks Tteokbokki and Ramyeon because whenever her favourite celebrities eat Korean food on TV shows, she starts to crave for them too.
"No one can ignore a food of such vibrant red colour. Just the sight of them increases my appetite, and the food tastes great without being greasy." She also tries to make Kimchi at home, and uses Gochujang in her usual cooking after falling in love with the Korean palate.
Meherin Sultana, a 16-year-old student studying in Viqarunnisa Noon College, is a moderately new K-pop fan. She loves K-pop merchandise such as stuffed toys, albums, tee shirts, etc. Several years ago, K-pop goods were not available to her at all. She used to make her own commodities by painting favourite groups’ logos on her bag, or printing their photos to decorate her phone's cover. She expresses excitement as a new K-pop retail shop has come into being near her home in Bailey Road, giving her the privilege to buy favourite goods.
However, the roots of such monetary domination around the globe can be traced to the time of the Asian financial crisis in 1997. According to a Washington Post report, South Korea faced a gigantic $55 billion loan due to the crisis. To restore the economy, President Kim Dae-Jung had chosen the entertainment sector as the newly formed K-pop industry had been benefiting the national economy. The first ever K-pop group, SeoTaiji and Boys, followed by other first-generation groups, H.O.T, S.E.S, SechsKies, etc, had been creating history in the East Asian countries with their new style of music and delightful dances.
Even the education sector was instructed to culture creative talents to support the Korean Wave. Vox reported a tentative USD 500-million budget was announced to be transformed into USD 10 billion by the cultural ministry within 2019. That was when K-pop had gone into full throttle holding the hands of Lee Soo-Man, Park Jin-Young and Yang Hyun-Suk, founders of the 'big three' entertainment labels of South Korea.
Since then, the nation has been paying priority to Hallyu’s growth. K-pop artists of the second generation, such as Super Junior, Girl’s Generation, Shinee, Wonder Girls, 2PM, Bigbang and 2ne1, started to make global impacts with their catchy music, flashy outfits, and synchronised dance through YouTube. This influence kept growing like Jack’s beanstalk with the third generation groups, BTS, EXO, Twice, Blackpink, and so on.
According to Hyundai Research Institution, BTS alone is worth over USD 3.6 billion to the South Korean economy. They predict that BTS’s contribution would reach 56.2 trillion Korean won (around USD 50 billion) within their ten years of debut. They also reported that 800,000 tourists would be visiting South Korea annually to watch BTS.
K-pop not only promotes pop culture but also South Korea’s tradition. Their tourist spots, traditional cuisine, clothing, and even folk music became globally popular, thanks to BTS’s 2018 song, ‘Idol.’ And this, not to mention, almost every fan becomes a consumer of South Korean food, fandom goods and beauty products.
The economic and cultural contribution has turned the South Korean entertainment industry into the nation's treasure. Now, not only the K-pop merchandise is now selling all over the globe, but also their culture, tradition and technologies are witnessing increasing acceptance.
MEHENAZ SULTANAis a student of English at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology. She can be reached at [email protected]