9 minutes estimated reading time
The Korean Wave
Hallyu The Korean Wave is exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Hallyu is actually a contraction of Han ryu which literally means The Korean Wave. Han meaning Korean (so the Korean written language is called Hangul) and ryu meaning wave.
The exhibition was interesting from a London audience perspective. You have to be a real history buff to know that the Korean war even happened. The olympics put Korea temporarily in western consciousness and then it submerged again. It was only since I started writing this blog that The Korean Wave started to become part of the London zeitgeist, let alone the rest of the country.
K-pop group Black Pink is now number one in the UK album charts with their sophomore release and there will be at least one Korean option when you open Uber Eats. Korean films and series (usually the most transgressive ones) are popular on Netflix and in arthouse cinemas.
The reality of The Korean Wave is more complex. It was something that was over 50 years in the making, going back at least to the compact that Park Chung-hee made with Korean business leaders at the expense of economic inequality, human rights and labour rights. The Korean Wave was birthed by a traumatic history of authoritarian rule. The Korean Wave wouldn’t have been possible without the economic growth driven by rapid economic growth and industrialisation. This in turn created the flywheel effect as Jim Collins would put it, that helped Korea become a cultural powerhouse as well as an economic one.
The exhibition skims the surface of this complexity, but is stylish and entertaining in nature.
The exhibition is running until February next year.
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