Growing Korean pop culture in India

Korean pop-culture, a growing subculture in India, now has substantial fan-base. Despite the fact the it is one of the toughest languages to learn and understand, there are thousands that follow Korean music, movies and television series.

The Korean Wave, referred to as Hallyu, probably started from the Northeast who adapted them back in 2000s when the Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF) imposed a blanket ban on the screening of Hindi movies and Hindi satellite channels . What probably started as a means to fill the gap became a popular trend.

I’m not sure when I got acquainted to this particular genre. It was probably when I was a third year engineering college student. I had gone home for semester holidays and my sister, who was a second year college student in Chennai, started addressing my mother as ‘Omma’ and me ‘Noona’, at least that is what it sounded like.

It was very funny. She wouldn’t stop throwing in foreign words that held no meaning to me now and then. It was sometimes annoying. When it was impossible for me to ignore I asked her. She said that there was a Korean series she was addicted to and she got words from there. At that time I was like, ‘Korean, seriously? What could be so great about them when there are sitcoms like Friends and That 70s show’ I thought.

But it was not just her. When I visited her friends and most girls in the college were so infatuated with the series, or rather the four guys in the series. Now I had to see it.

Korean drama Boys Over Flowers about 4 rich boys and a poor girl.
Korean drama Boys Over Flowers about 4 rich boys and a poor girl.

I got the 25 episode series ‘Boys over flowers’ from her and started watching. It was about four handsome and stinking rich 16-year-old boys and a poor teenage girl. It was all about love, romance and finding a place for themselves in the world. It was different than usual drama I watch. I liked it. I lost count of number of Korean series I saw after that. There was one series that revolves around a coffee shop, another about a music and many more. But underlying themes were always the same – love and togetherness. They serve no purpose than to make many girls dreamy and wish for such a perfect ending.

I never thought back then that it would actually be a culture in itself. But I was wrong.

I was travelling in a train bound to Kanyakumari. To kill the time I was watching Boys over flowers drama in my laptop. Suddenly a girl I do not even know and was passing by stopped, looked at my laptop screen and said, “Hey this is Boys over flowers right?’, her voice brimming with excitement. She smiled smugly and mouthed ‘Have fun’ before going to her seat.

That was when I realised Korean culture is bigger than it was. In a society where talking to a guy is frowned upon and being in love even more so, these series was refreshing and filled a gap even if only superficially.

But it was not only that. Fans of these series will also become Korean music fans as most of these drama have amazing opening and closing themes, usually played by young Korean music bands. In the drama Boys over flowers, the actor Kim Hyun-Joong who plays Ji-hoo (my favourite character) is a singer and a part of Korean music band. It is the case with many series. I have downloaded so many Korean songs from these series that I still listen even if I do not understand the meaning. They calm you and have lovely music that accompanies the songs.

Singer Kim Hyun-joong in another series Korean series Playful kiss.
Singer Kim Hyun-joong in another Korean series Playful kiss.

Another reason as to why Korean culture is spreading could be the influence of manga. Famous manga are always adapted into anime or television drama, especially if they are romance. Most famous adaptations are from Japanese comics manga Hana Yori Dango and Itazurana Kiss. Hana Yori Dango is till date the most sold romance manga in the world. It was one of the best written romance and people who read it will want to see other adaptations. When Korean adaptations are as compelling as the original, you tend to look for more. This is another way how Korean culture is becoming increasingly famous in India and other countries.

Though I have stopped following Korean series, having been a fan once I understand why these could be charming and addictive. As I have graduated to watching and reading much more complex stories and looking at three-dimensional life rather than 2D, I feel watching these drama makes you want to see and experience new things. If not anything, I’m sure there are many who would want to go to Korea on vacation rather than holing up in the room watching a saas-bahu serial.


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