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Like It or Hate It: The K-Wave

Words by: Celine Zamora

Like it or hate it, you’re aware of it. You’ve probably heard the music from this specific country as you’ve shopped in a mall, or maybe your friend gave you the viral spicy ramen to try, or more likely, you’re a frequent bystander as you’ve listened to your classmates squeal about a new drama while waiting for the teacher to arrive. There’s no need to guess we all know that it has something to do with South Korea.

Music, dramas, movies, variety shows, games, and even food are all part of this cultural phenomena called “Hallyu”. It’s a term that means “Korean Wave” and was aptly coined to refer to the phenomenal growth of Korean pop culture. What first spread to Japan in 2000 has now evidently taken over the world. Today, you can see K-pop music videos in shops that aren’t even Korean; you can watch K-dramas at night in both ABS-CBN and GMA; and you can certainly spot someone on Facebook sharing an old Weightlifting Fairy clip, a picture of the Song-Song couple marriage, or Sungjae from “Superman Returns.” Really, the K-Wave is so ingrained in our lives that it’s already a part of modern Filipino culture.

Despite its appeal to Filipinos of all ages, there has always been a constant scrutiny surrounding Korean pop culture in the Philippines. To many, K-pop and K-drama are “jej”, “foolish”, or “a total waste of time”. It doesn’t matter that these very entertainment mediums have direct counterparts in “cooler” American and British cultures; to a good number of people, the K-Wave will always carry a sense of gaudiness that they can’t understand or accept.

Despite the opposition, however, all aspects of the K-Wave have only continued to thrive. And arguments concerning respect aside, here are two other reasons why it is a relevant good in modern society.

First and quite simply, K-drama and K-pop are excellent forms of entertainment. It’s as simple as that. Not only is the quality of production evidently high, but there’s something unique about them that can attract audiences of all ages. A big portion of this is how values go hand-in-hand with entertainment. A perfect example is the KBS show called “The Return of Superman” which chronicles the “dates” fathers have with their children over a 48-hour period. The importance of family, patience, and respect are highlighted in every episode. Interestingly, K-pop is also screened and labeled with a specific age guide for parental guidance. Music videos can even get banned from being played in major broadcasting shows if deemed indecent or too rebellious. Most importantly though, K-pop, K-drama, and even K-food are some of the best forms of de-stressing. After a long day at work or school, crawling into bed and watching an episode of a favorite drama while eating ramyeon as a BTS hit plays in the background? It’s a dream come true.

Second, it’s very easy to limit ourselves to the culture of the country whose entertainment we choose: anime and Japan, mainstream music and America, noontime shows and the Philippines. While it is definitely not a bad thing to patronize our native country’s telenovelas and movies, learning about the norms and values of other places can widen our views of the world around us, and in extension, help us to better understand ourselves and others. What the K-Wave does is that it offers a portal to a new culture: South Korean. K-Dramas, for instance, show us how rigorous the academic life is there. They also show the importance of respecting one’s elders and of working hard to achieve one’s goal a perfect example of the latter would be Kim Bokjoo in “Weightlifting Fairy.” Though K-dramas are set in a world so different from our own in the Philippines (especially since historical and fantasy dramas are commonplace in South Korea), every viewer can relate to its story in some way, proving that in spite of differing cultures, everyone in the world is the same in one way or another.

Some may deem the K-wave “jej”, “foolish”, or “a total waste of time”, but it really is just another form of entertainment like the ones we are exposed to on a minute basis, albeit formatted in a new and invigoratingly interesting package. Instead of judging it or disliking it on site, why not take a step back and allow people to enjoy something they love? It doesn’t hurt anyone in any way, and in fact it is a good influence if taken in moderation. In the end, however people view Korea’s entertainment culture, no one can deny that it is on an upward scale of popularity and growth. Like it or hate it, there’s no stopping the K-wave now.