This isn't my first rodeo -- I've been saying the same thing for a long time.
Did a short opinion piece for tyhe Korea Times, wish I had been more careful about how
I talked about the origins of the term "Korean Wave," since that's become a bigger sticking point than the greater point of my argument that it's not about a sudden recognition of Korea in the West -- 'cause let's face it, that's what most important to the "Wave's" boosters -- it's about more, better Korean cultural products coming out in general, which is awesome, and I'm all for cheering that.
Good criticisms, factual errors on points taken.
In short, the point I'm making comes from sitting on that Branding Council watching the self-congratulatory back slapping in the media about how the "Korean Wave" was moving across the world. I should've reigned it in by saying "Sure, it's a trend in Asia, but the world? The chest thumping and boastiung, quite frankly, happens when something Korean comes out in Europe or America, not China or Japan as much. For the latter two countries, it's like "Yeah, we know." But if GG comes on Letterman or Psy makes it onto Ellen, it's a big deal that further adds to this idea oof there being a concrete "wave. Perhaps my point would have been better served with a food example, where Korean food is yes -- pretty well known compared to the old days. But people like it because it's goood, not because it's Korean. Hence, this goies against the idea that there is some active recognition -- especially in the West, which is where it's most valued as coming from -- of Korean culture for its own sake. The example of structural push-pull factors -- akin to immigration theory -- would be better explicated through rtalking about soon tubu on the Bay Area, which was pretty popular in Oakland Koreatown for a minute because it was there, good, and cheap , and because there are a lot of health-conscious and vegetaroian consumers in the Bay Area who astumbled across the dish and it snowballed in the local press because it's hard to find vegetarian food that is hearty and has a spicy punch. So non-Koreans were coming in hordes for a while.
Structural and demographic factors align and we get trends and ideas becoming more popular. My point is that Korean things -- from sundubu to Psy -- are getting out there because they're good and WORTHY of the attention, and with Korea being a developed economy now, there's a lot more of that -- and there will be more. Hence my point about Korean cultural products showing up around the world stage more often is that it's commensurate with the increase in quality of Korean cultural products in general, and is to be expected. It;s not a fantastric phenomenon if you look at the structural factors, and which is why the "Han River Miracle" indeed ISN'T -- if you look at all the capital inflow and military protection that Korea received after the Korean War. It's a perfectly logical and foreseeable ouitcome, given the circumstances -- that's the point, and lesson to take from Korean history. Or in thjs case, the "Korean Wave."
The thing that bothers me about the term is that it encourages a very top-down, centrally-controlled,, Korean-style management relex that zctually stiflesthe production and dissemination of good aspects of Korean culture for international consumption.
My whole thing is that if you let Korean cultural products alone, they'll speak for themsleves. THe Korean government has already done a good job at doing what governments can and should do to encourage the growth of so-called "culture industries" -- some of them quite by accident. Lifting government ceonsoship on films did more for Korean cinema than any other specfic policydesigned to suport the industry, just as not implementing upload caps on the broadband network the Korean government essenttially built from scratch in one of its many multi-year development plans helpeed create the possibility for a thriving gaming environment. Psy got big, in the end, not as the esult of government initiatives, or big production companies pushing him, but because he's amazing and because of Youtube. And by comparison, where are the much-vaunted Wonder Girls and Girls' Generation these days? Did any of the nationalist -- and frankly, somewhat dishonest boosterism ever help spread Korean culture abroad? The biggest cases of Korean cultural product success took place outside of the "Korean Wave" government-industry machine model, and are often products the government wouldn't want to support, or weren't popular back home, or are just things nationalists want to push for no reasons other than their own:
"Korean Wave" booster favorite: Royal Korean court food, bibimbap
Real world winners, by dint of just being unequivocally awesome: Korean fried chicken, sundubu, galbi.
"Korean Wave" booster favorite: Chunhyang and other crap like this
Real world winners, by dint of just being unequivocally awesome: Old Boy, The King and the Clown, The Host
"Korean Wave" booster favorite: The Wonder Girls and other slightly pervy, real-talentless dancing girl acts ad nauseum, Rain
Real world winners, by dint of just being unequivocally awesome: 2ne1, Psy
"Korean Wave" booster favorite: Seoul Fashion Week (no one cares, yet)
Real world winners, by dint of just being unequivocally awesome: Korean street fashion, certain cool-ass, individual designers with crazy talent