Is the Korean wave over?

In response to the THAAD defence shield, China retaliated by cancelling a concert in Shanghai for the K-Pop Idol group Exo.

Now people are worried that it could lead to further restrictions on other K-pop performers, or TV programmes. The ban is particularly worrying as China is perhaps the biggest exporter of Korean music and TV programmes, all part of the movement known as Hallyu or Korean Wave. Shares have already fallen in Korean stocks after the news.


The demise of Hallyu has been reported many times. A backlash from other countries, who resent Korea’s dominance on the airwaves has led to restrictions on the amount of Korean songs played on the radio in Cambodia, and China and Japan have tried to limit the number of Korean dramas shown on the airwaves.

The main markets for Korean entertainment has been in other Asian countries but as they develop their own entertainment (or simply improve the ones they already have) there will be less dominance by Korean culture. This is particularly true of Japan and China who have often been fiercely nationalistic.

Sadly, the conglomerates which manufacture Korean groups and singers have simply been churning out too many of the same looking and sounding groups. No-wonder the public are losing interest. Internationally, there hasn’t been a song anything like as popular as Gingham Style, which was nearly 4 years ago.

No-one can doubt the popularity of K-Pop. SNSD’s Gee has ranked a phenomenal 166,417,458 youtube views, but the group haven’t been able to match the super hit (the departure of lead singer Jessica has really hurt the group’s chances).

It’s well-known that the government of Korea have interested in TV and music production as part of promoting the Spirit of Korea overseas. But nearly all of it been on pop-culture which has meant that traditional aspects of Korean culture have lost out. It could be time for a change of tack. Changes in music and TV come about thick and fast but people will (I think) always love Korean food, the people and the history of Korea.

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