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No end in sight for Korean Wave in Indonesia

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Fri, October 30, 2020  /  02:22 pm
No end in sight for Korean Wave in Indonesia

Evergreen: Early generation K-pop idol/actor Rain and actress Song He Kyo in a scene from drama series 'Full House'. It gained the highest rating of 40 percent in 2005 according to Korean Culture and Information Service and is now available on streaming platforms, including Netflix. (Netflix/-)

Indonesia is no longer a market as it becomes a part of the cultural phenomenon.

Images of South Korean pop music idol Jimin, a member of boy group BTS, have been flashing on a digital billboard at a busy intersection in Bekasi, a commuter city of Jakarta, since Oct. 13.

The display was commissioned by a group of fans wishing their idol a happy birthday that day, a fanfare that added to the flux of greeting messages posted on social media.

The boys next door: The members of South Korean boy band BTS pose for promotional materials in the release of their latest album Map of the Soul:7. The boys next door: The members of South Korean boy band BTS pose for promotional materials in the release of their latest album Map of the Soul:7. (Big Hit Entertainment/-)

That Sunday, his name appeared in all top 20 Twitter rankings trending worldwide.

Park Ji-min, who just turned 25, deserved all the attention after his latest solo track "Filter" ranked number one on the Billboard charts recently alongside the group’s album Map of the Soul: 7, going on the path of global fame paved by the Korean wave.

Korean Wave, or Hallyu, refers to the increasing popularity of South Korean culture since the 1990s that moved regionally at first driven by its TV drama series, K-dramas and later by K-pop - a generic term to describe any music genre exhibiting a wide spectrum of musical and visual elements that include the dance, the fashion and the look of the performers.

According to sociologist Andrew Eungi Kim of Korea University, the success of Hallyu was closely linked to the country’s economic growth that enabled its entrepreneurs to make high-quality, sophisticated and stylish cultural products to be exported worldwide.

“The common denominator of nations with a high outreach of their culture, including the language, is that they are economically affluent. And South Korea has joined the club,” said Kim during an online discussion themed “Current Situation and the Future of Hallyu in Indonesia” on Oct. 8.

The discussion was organized by the Korean Cultural Center in Indonesia (KCCI) to celebrate Hangeul Day, commemorating the invention and proclamation of the alphabet of the Korean language back in the 15th century.

Opening the event, KCCI director Kim Yong-woon said that more and more Indonesians learned the language and became keen on Korean food. 

“Indonesia, an important partner in the country’s New Southern Policy as the largest ASEAN country, finds the [Hallyu] phenomenon exciting. Many people are able to sing along to K-pop songs, speak the language and eat the food, enjoying K-culture.

“We would still like to know how Hallyu could make its way to Indonesian culture from the Indonesian perspective and its possible future, hence the discussion,” he added.

Moderated by Suray Agung Nugroho of Gadjah Mada University’s School of Cultural Sciences, other speakers in the discussion were CNN Indonesia journalist Christie Stefanie and National University lecturer Fitri Meutia, currently a doctoral candidate of Korean Educational Linguistics at Kyung Hee University.

In her argument, Christie said the penetration of K-drama was seamless as they came about the same time as the influx of Asian drama series on newly established private TV stations.

“The popularity rating of [K-drama] Endless Love when it was aired in 2002 is 10 percent, meaning that 2.8 million people watched it. The rating of Full House that aired in 2005 was nearly 40 percent,” she said.

The involvement of K-pop artists in K-drama, either as soundtrack artists or the cast, was the entry point for Indonesians to get familiar with the K-pop scene.

“[Korean idol] Rain is the star of Full House and he was the first solo artist to hold a concert in Jakarta in 2009,” added Christie.

The increasing trend was also shown by the increasing page views of CNN Indonesia, which started to post news articles on the Korean entertainment world in 2017.

Cultural hybrid: 'Hospital Playlist' is among the most popular South Korean drama series in 2020, with a cast dominated by musical actors. The story revolves around five hospital doctors who find reverie in each other and in their band. Cultural hybrid: 'Hospital Playlist' is among the most popular South Korean drama series in 2020, with a cast dominated by musical actors. The story revolves around five hospital doctors who find reverie in each other and in their band. (Netflix/-)

“In three years after we started using the hashtag #Hallyu in 2018, the number of clicks has increased sevenfold to more than 28,000. The news that the readers are most curious about is personal information about idols and the behind-the-scenes information on popular dramas and actors.”

As the proliferation of Korean content in Indonesia came along with advancements in telecommunication technology, Fitri Meutia predicted that Hallyu would not fade away soon and instead would penetrate further.

“In the near past we sent handwritten fan mail, but now fans can interact directly in video chats with their idols through social media platforms,” she said.

According to her, K-pop has taken over K-drama as the frontline of Hallyu, although the cultural wave has evolved to Shin Hallyu or Hallyu 3.0, which includes food, home cooking, cosmetics, fashion, medicines, online games and animation.

“There should be new strategies in marketing the other cultural products to be able to catch up with the K-pop global phenomenon,” said Fitri.

Kim, whose research mainly focuses on Hallyu and the impact of K-culture worldwide as well as how it affects the Korean people itself, said exports of cultural content totaled over US$6.7 billion in 2017, a more than fivefold increase from $1.3 billion in 2005, with online games topping the export list.

“K-cultural products are an example of the success of cultural hybridization, and many of them are culturally odorless such as the online games,” he said.

Although Hallyu as an industrial economic phenomenon has its adverse impact such as consumerism and overzealous fans, Kim said the cultural wave had also inspired “Asian pride” in the face of the rest of the world.

“It’s not about seeking validation or acknowledgment from the West, but with Hallyu, they are being exposed to new ideas, a new cultural experience,” he said.

However, Kim added, the rise of competing cultural products as currently seen coming from China and Japan as well as the increasing “protectionist” cultural policies in Asian countries might “hurt” Hallyu.

Christie said Indonesia going forward was no longer a market per se for Hallyu products, as the country was becoming a part of it.

“Indonesia has become the destination for the variety show programs, has its popular films adapted from Korean films and actor Joe Taslim has been cast in Korean film The Swordsman, and Indonesians have also been recruited for K-pop groups,” she argued.

“And quoting Vice President Ma’ruf Amin [from his video speech on the commemoration of 100th anniversary of Korean nationals living in Indonesia], the rise of K-pop culture is expected to inspire the creativity of the young generations in creating and introducing the diversity of Indonesian culture abroad.”

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