Eating chicken with beer was once thought as an exclusive pastime of Koreans. However, chicken and beer fever has sparked across China. More amazing thing is that the fever started when the TV drama The Man from the Star actress Cheon Song-i, said, “Chicken with beer is best when snow falls.” The phenomenon in China is just another result of Hallyu*. Nowadays Korea’s pop culture like K-drama and K-pop influence a lot of foreign people. Moreover, Hallyu is widening its grasp so that nowadays Hallyu does not only refer to Korean pop culture. The Sookmyung Times (SMT) went to the centrum of Hallyu to feel Hallyu’s direct affect in Hong Kong, where people have fallen in love with everything Korea offers.
The Key to Moving the World, Culture
When the Korean drama What is Love was broadcasted in China and Taiwan, the term Hallyu appeared. At first, Hallyu referred to Korean pop culture in terms of Korean dramas. In Hong Kong, one of the most famous Hallyu dramas Daejanggeum had a 47% audience viewing when its last episode was broadcasted on May 2005.1 At that time, watching Daejanggeum was both trendy and a part of Hong Kong daily life.
Following the interest in K-drama, other parts of Korean pop culture like pop music and movies also started to gain a huge following in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, on demand of Hong Kong people, the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea hosted K-pop concerts. As soon as the ticket box opened, tickets sold out in a matter of minutes. Sophia Wong, a student at Hong Kong University, said, “Many Hong Kong students love K-pop. In my case, I really love Super Junior so whenever Super Junior visits Hong Kong, I go to their concert every time.” Lina Law, another student at Hong Kong University, said, “I love to watch Korean TV shows so when I went to Korea last year, I visited KBS to sit in on a show tapping. It was a really enjoyable experience for me.” Reporters of SMT were surprised at how much students at Hong Kong University knew about K-pop singers and their songs. Nowadays, Hong Kong people are in love with Korean pop culture, but they are even more enthusiastic about Korean things, much more than typical Koreans. Hallyu does not only mean the spread of Korean pop culture.
Hallyu is Just Next to You
Nowadays Hallyu has invaded Hong Kong people’s everyday life. Han Jaeheuk from the Consul of Culture & Press Department at the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea said, “Presently, Hallyu in Hong Kong can be described as ‘Hallyu inside life.’ Hallyu has seeped into the everyday life of Hong Kong people.” As he said, SMT reporters easily observed many Korean things in Hong Kong people’s daily life.
At the markets, we easily found Korean products like ramen, seasonings, snacks, and health food like red ginseng. They were placed on shelves that were in prominent positions because Korean items sold well. Also, there were lots of Korean cosmetic shops like Tonymoly, Etude House, and Missha. Because Hong Kong has much less censorship than China, many Korean cosmetic brands chose to sell in Hong Kong. Also, because Hong Kong is visited by more than 40 million Chinese people visit in each year, Hong Kong is a hot spot for selling Korean cosmetic products. Aside from cosmetic products, Korean cellphones like the Galaxy sell well in Hong Kong so that 6 in 10 people use a Korean brand cellphone in Hong Kong. Korean restaurants are not only for Korean expatriates living in Hong Kong but also for Hong Kong residents. 80~90% of those Korean restaurants are operated by native Korean people. Above this, Korean fashion styles are trendy in Hong Kong and Taekwondo is loved, too. The Korean language is studied by many university students and general citizens. Hallyu is not only a means to spread Korean pop culture but a great way to spread Korean trends and products.
New Meaning of Hallyu, Exchange
Until now, Hallyu has been the means of informing the world about Korean culture and products. Therefore, K-pop became loved worldwide and Korean products are now sold in various countries. However, Korea has not opened itself to other countries’ culture; Hallyu just gave without receiving. Han Jaeheuk said, “The purpose of Hallyu needs to change. It needs to inform Korean culture by sharing Korean culture through exchanges with other countries.” Today, Korea has achieved the first purpose of Hallyu, which was to bring Korea to the world, but now is the time to exchange cultures with other countries including Hong Kong. By upgrading Hallyu as a means of sharing cultures, Koreans will reap better rewards.
Special thanks to the Hong Kong University Korean Society and Consul of Culture & Press Department at the Consulate General of Republic of Korea representative, Han Jaeheuk for the interview.
* Hallyu is a coined term defining the wave of Korean movies, television dramas, and pop music sweeping Asian countries.
1 Kwon Youngseok, “Hong Kong Media Shocked by the Viewer Rating of Daejanggeum,” Yonhapnews, May 4, 2005