Korean wave: A cultural aggression and its impact


Authors: Ifaz Mahmud Mahi and Md. Obaidullah

Hallyu! The Korean wave, often known as the K-wave, is the surge in global popularity of South Korean culture from the 1990s. It displays South Korea’s rich and vibrant popular culture, which has an impact on the global creative industries of film, theater, music, fandom, beauty, and fashion. Owing to the increase in internet and social media use, such as Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms, the wave initially began in Southeast and South Asia later expanding globally. Anyway, one percent of South Korea’s budget went for cultural organizations in 2014, and the country also raised $1 billion for popular culture. Since 2020, the Korean wave has been headed by K-pop, with standout bands such as BTS and Blackpink, followed by K-dramas.

Korea’s culture started to advance in the 1980s. In 1986, Fox, Warner Brothers, Walt Disney, and other companies opened their distribution office in South Korea. However, by 1994, the local film industry’s proportion of the market had fallen. In order to expand its media industry and attract investors, the South Korean Ministry of Culture established a cultural industry bureau. Later in 2000, S. M. Entertainment’s boy band H. O. T. became the first modern K-pop act to give an international performance, with a sold-out show in Beijing, while My Sassy Girl was a box office blockbuster across East Asia in 2001.

Subsequently, Hallyu 2.0, the second wave, adopting digital and social media, with a broader focus on Korean pop music, video games, and animation, started to emerge around 2007. Since Psy’s “Gangnam Style” video went viral and became the first YouTube video to surpass one billion views in 2012–2013, Korean culture products have become more and more popular.

Furthermore, the story continued with the third and current generation of the Korean wave. Hallyu 3.0, which began in the mid-2010s targeting more regions. The rise and spread of K-pop groups such as BTS, Blackpink and new YouTube contents like Mukbang videos have become characteristic of Hallyu 3.0. Netflix invested a figure reaching $700 million from 2015 to 2020 in South Korea. After the COVID-19 pandemic, Korean variety shows picked up more interest among foreigners, K-dramas and Korean games. BTS, Blackpink and Psy were the most popular in K-pop category outside of South Korea during the pandemic. In 2017, Korean Netflix original movie Okja was funded by Netflix. Afterwards, in 2019 Parasite won several awards at international film festivals, for instance, by winning two Academy Awards in 2020 for Best Picture and Best International Film. According to Netflix streaming statistics for Asia in 2020, Blackpink: Light Up the Sky overtook other Netflix documentaries as the most popular in various nations. Additionally, “Alive” recently attracted a sizable fan base in the Korean film category.  According to Duolingo’s report of 2020, Korean has become the second fastest growing language on the platform and the seventh most popular language of study. Victoria and Albert Museum, further, will conduct an exhibition from September 2022 to June 2023 which will showcase the unprecedented rise of Korean wave at a global stage.

Korean popular culture, meanwhile, offers a blend of western and Asian values which increases its chance of being accepted in countries that are attracted to western culture and share similar values. As a result, K-dramas and movies are the second most popular Korean cultural export in Bangladesh. Not to mention Squid Game, which has ranked first on Bangladesh’s viewership list. Korean dramas show family ties such as caring for their children, taking care of their old parents, sibling love and quality romantic love stories for the audiences to enjoy. Needless to say, these cultural values are similar to Bangladeshi cultural values which are working as a supporting element to accept Korean culture by the Bangladeshi youths. 

K-pop plays another vital role in hallyu in Bangladesh, undoubtedly.  Korean music themes and lyrics are designed to attract the Audience. Many of their songs are indicated to issues regarding friendship, love, determination and how to overcome the depression of any kind which is attractive to youth not just in Bangladesh but all over the world. But in recent years K-pop has become more known to Bangladeshi young generation because of the internet and social media. Consequently, there raised a lot of online business to sell K-pop idol’s t-shirt, badge, ring, bag or ornaments for girls.

Even the famous band BTS will come to Bangladesh in 2022. Continuous consumption of Korean pop culture and growing interest in Korean culture seems to have a huge lingual influence on the young generation of Bangladesh. Most of the members of their fanbase use the Korean words like ‘Oppa’, ‘Kul’, ‘Chingu’ etc more or less in their everyday language. Through the influence of Korean culture, Bangladeshi youths are adopting the Korean language which is an indication of initiating cultural hybridization.

Another huge impact of Korean wave in Bangladesh is the beauty and fashion follower. Korean people are very conscious about fairness. Their fashion style attracts the attention of young people. A lot of Korean beauty shops are opening in Bangladesh where many of the shops in a shopping mall or online stores are already highly demanding. Korean fashionable dresses are also becoming popular among the youths in Bangladesh and males try to follow the fashionable dressing of k-pop idols.

Then comes the case with Korean food, particularly Korean style ramen. The availability of Korean ramen and ramen sauce in Bangladeshi shops is noteworthy. Whereas the average Bangladeshi adult will almost always opt for a local product, in contrast, a younger generation are more likely to pick up the packet of Korean ramen.

The hybridity of Korean popular culture is appealing to the Bangladeshi consumers because they can relate to their own cultural ethos, and it also contains western culture elements. Korean wave offers a perfect mixture of both western and traditional Korean culture in their products which represents the glocalization process. In the case of Bangladesh, it can be seen that the people of Bangladesh are also becoming a part of South Korea’s glocalization process.

The Bangladeshi youth are obsessed with Korean dramas, movies and songs in lieu of listening Bengali songs or watching Bengali dramas. Expert says, k-dramas demonstrate unrealistic view of human life, which may augment viewers’ expectations from others or relationships, and it can lead to the anxiety and depression.

Moreover, this Korean culture can be considered as cultural aggression in Bangladesh as we are going through a cultural crisis for the last few years. After 2000s, Indian culture entered here rapidly and we saw the terrific impact of it, not to mention, child committed suicide for PAKHI dress in 2014. The fanbase of BTS or Korean culture are rising and people are following them blindly specially girls, forgetting our own culture. It’s time to rethink about the abysmal impact of k-wave, it should be controlled, and our culture must be spread, or else we will face horrific consequences in the long run.

Ifaz Mahmud Mahi
Ifaz Mahmud Mahi
freelance writer and independent researcher.


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