Attracted by pop culture, expatriates bet on Korea

In just a few weeks, the series Squid Game revolutionized the universe of the Netflix platform. This allegory which denounces the excesses of capitalism within Korean society recorded an absolute record with more than 111 million households having seen the series.

Even The New York Times was surprised by the worldwide success of this series, only one year after that of the film. Parasiteby South Korean Bong Joon-ho, who won four Oscars and a Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

These successes on the big and small screens come just a few years after the arrival on the international scene of K-pop, which now has a grip on the music charts around the world. Its most famous representatives, the BTS group, have even been invited to the UN platform to defend sustainable development around the world in 2021.

An influence beyond the cultural world

These cultural phenomena today make Korea a key player on the cultural, economic and diplomatic scene. In terms of the export of cultural productions (films, series, music, TV shows, etc.), its growth is significant: it totaled 10.8 billion dollars last year alone, an increase of 6.3%.

The global and brutal success of Korean films and series like Squid Game pervades all facets of global society. For example, it has given a boost to the learning of Korean all over the world. On the Duolingo app, which allows you to learn languages ​​online, there was a jump of 76% in Britain, 40% in the United States in just two weeks after the release of series. With a total of eight million people now learning Korean on the platform.

A phenomenon carried by the State since the 90s

While this orientation has tended to increase in recent months, it has its origins almost 30 years ago. This phenomenon calledHallyu” (한류), literally “Korean wave”, was formed thanks to a policy of promotion of the cultural and artistic industry abroad carried out by the South Korean State, and a completely innovative way of promoting its star-system associated with a very dynamic fan culture. Positioning himself as a competitor to North American hegemony in terms of pop culture, the Korean outsider has shaken up international entertainment markets.

If the first k-drama (Korean series), what is love, dates back to the early 1990s, it was in 1997 that the Korean state, affected by the Asian financial crisis, decided to diversify its economy and focus on culture. It needs an alternative to hard power (electronics and automotive industry) to better target the export of its cultural products.

The State then multiplied investments and tax measures in favor of the entertainment industry, with more than 500 million dollars paid each year to the dedicated ministry for ten years.

Korean culture becomes a tool of economic and diplomatic influence. So that the country, 10e power of the world, was invited at the G7 table the past three years.

Expats attracted to Korea and its pop culture

According to the Korea Tourism Organization, more than 13 percent of tourists visited Korea in 2019 specifically for the purpose of experiencing pop culture and attending fan events, spending them totaling $2.7 billion.

If the pandemic has slowed down the facilities of expatriates on Korean soil, the trend has continued to progress until this date and should resume once the epidemic has stopped. In 2019, the number of foreign nationals staying in the country exceeded 2.5 million for the first time. The country’s foreign population had already passed the one million mark in August 2007 and 2 million in June 2016.

“Far beyond a cultural trend, Korean soft power is invading the world and making the Land of the Morning Calm a destination that increasingly attracts foreigners for their vacations and expatriates for long-term settlements, underlines Clement Fagon, Director of the Asia region for the AGS Group. The younger generations who want to come and live in Asia no longer necessarily rely on China or Singapore, which have become too expensive and inaccessible, but are turning to Korea, which now corresponds to their cultural and social references”.

The main dates of the Korean Hallyu

1997

  • President Kim Dae Jung launches a plan for the cultural economy and its exports

1997

  • What is Love, the first K-drama, is seen by 150 million people

2006

  • Singer Rain enters the top 100 most influential people in Time Magazine’s ranking

2012

  • The title Gangnam Style exceeds one billion views on YouTube (today it has reached more than 3.2 billion).

2019

  • K-pop group BTS reaches number 1 on the Billboard charts for its third album

2020

  • The movie Parasite wins four Oscars
  • The United States hosts the first K-pop festivals, such as Kcon

2021

  • Squid Game becomes Netflix’s most-watched series

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Attracted by pop culture, expatriates bet on Korea