The K wave!
Hallyu or the Korean wave of popular culture continues to rage across India, and the tide does not seem to be receding any time soon In fact, the...
Hallyu or ‘the Korean wave’ of popular culture continues to rage across India, and the tide does not seem to be receding any time soon. In fact, the influence of the Korean industry on young adults in India is only growing, with the experience branching out from just entertainment - its music, called K-Pop and its films and television, called K-drama. Now is the age of K-Beauty - Korean make-up and skin care, and those who have been riding the wave for a while now, are all praise about the new trend. Well, mostly.
Hallyu’s entry into India was largely a product of Manipur’s ban on Hindi films and television content by the political party Revolutionary People’s Front, in the year 2000. The ban was imposed in protest, as the State was fighting for Independence from Indian governance. Before the ban, Bollywood had become quite popular and it had dominated regional content to a great extent and the production of Manipuri shows had dwindled. With a sudden void after the ban, the easily available and easily relatable content of Korean music and drama became a Manipuri’s staple dose of entertainment.
Pirated CDs of the films were easy to lay hands on and in 1995, Arirang TV, an English language South Korean channel was launched in Mizoram. Some dubbed Korean dramas were also aired on Doordarshan but what gave a big boost to the content was the drama ‘Boys Over Flowers’, which became a sensation within days.
The value system of Koreans, which is much like that of Indians, seems to have upped the relatability factor for Indians consuming Korean media. The Northeast Indian migrants brought the content with them to the rest of India. It soon reached the very South of the country, with the Tamil TV channel Puthuyugam airing quite a few Korean drama series.
The Rise of Hallyu
A Study on the Consumption of Korean Content in India’ - a graduation thesis by Neela Chakravarthy of Annapurna International School of Film and Media, provides interesting findings. Neela, who used to be a K-Pop fanatic herself, says that she was ushered into this world by her friend Diksha Laxmikanth and her sister. Just as it happened with her, her study, (which was completed in April 2018) found that most Indian fans have been introduced to Korean entertainment either by a friend or by a family member - i.e, through word of mouth. In her study, Neela also found that most fans have been sourcing the content through illegal and sometimes inconvenient means and that they were open to paying for this content legitimately if it were made available.
Interestingly, just in the past few months, some online streaming content websites like Viu have started advertising heavily on the internet. Now, the norm that was of publicity through word of mouth has changed, and through these advertisements, prospective customers are able to get introduced to Korean entertainment directly, by discovering it themselves.
Neela thinks that due to this, more people are definitely going to get involved in watching them. In fact, Viu has increased its Korean content recently by signing an agreement with a leading Korean cable broadcaster to offer its viewers access to over 80 per cent of the Korean TV network’s premium drama series and shows. But what is it that attracts Indians to Korean content? The study explains that some of the Northeast Indians who have been respondents in her survey say that the lack of representation of people who look like them in mainstream Indian content and their racial affiliation with the Koreans and the resemblance in their cultures, is one of the prime reasons.
Korean music also simultaneously made its way to India. With band members appearing in K-dramas, they managed to garner enough audience for their music and cultural centres of both the countries began to take notice and organising events. K-pop contests are regularly held even in Hyderabad and one can be aware of them through Facebook pages and by checking in with event spaces. They tried to expand their reach in India by putting together some K-pop idols from different bands and creating a reality show out of it, where the group would go sight-seeing to different Indian monuments, but this didn’t work out as well as expected.
While K-pop and K-drama have been in the country for quite some time now, with its popularity consistently soaring, a comparatively new addition to this bandwagon is K-Beauty. Diksha Laxmikanth, a student of Azim Premji University and the K-pop fan, who had introduced Neela to the culture, gives her insights. “I got into K-pop through a Seoul tourism advertisement. The song that played on it was super catchy, and that made me want to listen to more of such music. Also, as a kid, I used to watch Animax, a channel which had quite some Korean anime for kids. In that too, there were traces of K-pop.
I never got into K-drama though, as I find it extremely cliched and still very patriarchal,” she explains. “K-Beauty is slowly catching on in India, with giants like Nykaa selling Korean brands like Innisfree and Face Shop. For skin-care, there’s no match for Korean products as they are very effective and also reasonable. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for their make-up. The market research that they have done to expand in India seems to be nil as they have almost no products for our darker skin-tone.”
There are consumers of Korean entertainment and those who have been consumed by Korean entertainment. One such person who is neck-deep in everything Korean is Hyderabad-based Angeleena Zelah, Interior designing student at School of Planning and Architecture. She started watching Korean dramas seven years ago, and now, she can understand, read and speak Korean with reasonable comfort.
“My dream was to go to Korea and now I have managed to make it happen. I was selected to represent India at the World Cultural Dance Festival, held in Korea. I was there for a month, and there will be more visits to come,” says Angeleena, for whom it was the polite and respectful disposition of Koreans and their food, that made her fall even more madly in love with the
Diksha, too, understands some Korean. She says that it was very easy for her to pick it up as there are many similarities between Korean and her mother tongue, Tamil. “Many words are similar in Tamil and Korean and Korean grammar is similar to that of Hindi,” she explains. In an online interview, Jung Nam Kim, the President of Korean Society of Tamil Studies, says that he has found 500 words in Tamil and Korean that sound and mean the same! Even many of Korean exclamations are not very alien to us. ‘Ayyo’, the commonly used expression in many South Indian languages, resembles ‘Aigoo’, the Korean word for the same expression!
The Korean and Indian paths have crossed, and the wave seems to be here to stay. Those who have caught it, seem to be having an exhilarating ride.
- Nikhita Gowra