What The Hallyu?!

Hello again! Last time I talked about a few of the issues that certain industrial sectors have with the Korea-Canada free trade agreement. Understandably many are both fearful and hopeful about this, some may say, impending agreement. Naturally some will benefit more than others, and some will likely lose out in the end, but I feel that we as humans should always do our best to prepare for change, as it is one of the few things in life that is certain. That being said, I’d like to move away somewhat from the FTA discussion and focus more on the growing cultural presence that Korea is having here in Canada and elsewhere in the world.

Hallyu, often translated as the “Korean wave,” is a term often used in relation to Korean media, especially popular music (“K-pop”) and serial television dramas (“K-drama”). The term denotes the increase in popularity of these facets of South Korean media in other countries — starting first in Asia and then gaining steam in North America sometime between 2009 and 2010. Despite the term’s relevance to popular media, I like to think Hallyu can be used in a much broader context.

kwalogoAs I mentioned in my first post, the evidence of South Korea’s rise to prominence as a global economic superpower is all around us. Hyundai and Kia cars drive through our streets, Canadians young and old can be seen fiddling with their Samsung and LG smartphones and tablets on the bus, and Korean-brand appliances populate our homes. Is this not also a form of Hallyu — a kind of Korean “production wave,” so to speak? At the very least I think all these elements are related. The resuming of FTA negotiations (after a four-year break) between Korea and Canada is essentially a post-Hallyu phenomenon. It’s another indication that we are living in an exciting time for those who aspire to work involving Korea!

K-pop showcase events like this are becoming more and more common outside of South Korea.

K-pop showcase events like this are becoming more and more common outside of South Korea.

As I’ve mentioned before, as an East Asian Studies specialist with a focus on Korea, I’ve often been asked what I hope do with the skills I’ve learned in my major after I graduate. Earlier in my studies I found this question quite daunting, as I honestly didn’t really know the answer. Teaching English in Korea was one possibility that I had kept in mind; however — let’s face it — any native speaker with a degree can do that. It’s not necessary for me to spend endless hours trying to become fluent in the Korean language while familiarizing myself with its history, culture, and media just to teach English there. As my studies continued I became more and more aware of South Korea’s aspirations in terms of what is essentially “exporting” culture, so my heart is set on something a little more specialized for my future.


With international interest in Korean products and media on the upswing, joining the Korean wave beyond mere fandom is now a possibility.

    Though at present I couldn’t tell you exactly which field I plan to work in, as I have not quite narrowed it down yet, I have done quite a lot of research into what sort of opportunities are available for someone with my particular skill set. I feel that my findings will give a lot of young Canadians interested in Korea something to think about. I shall go into a bit more detail in my next post.

       Stay tuned (or should that be bookmarked?).

Categories: 2014

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