Hallyu, the Korean Wave, is now sweeping across Cuba.
Many domestic Korean media outlets have recently covered the Cuban people’s great interest in all things Korean. The dailies said that Korean TV soap operas, audition-themed survival programs and pop music are all enjoying great popularity in the Caribbean’s largest country.
The Chosun Ilbo said in an article on November 5 that, “When ‘Queen of Housewives’ became the first Korean drama to ever air on Cuban TV last April, it soon became a hit show with a viewer’s rating exceeding 70 percent. Other Korean dramas, such as ‘My Fair Lady’ and ‘Secret Garden,’ followed suit, creating a Korean soap opera boom.”
Such strong interest was reinforced at the 2014 Havana International Fair (FIHAV), which took place on November 2 for three days. According to domestic media outlets, Alex Castro, one of Fidel Castro’s sons, visited the Korean booth at the international fair along with high-profile Cuban officials, including the ministers of energy, agriculture and culture. Alex Castro said that he watched Korean dramas at home on TV or online. Korean dramas have fast-moving stories and showed handsome, attractive people, he was quoted as saying. He met with Sun Woo-sun, one of the stars of “Queen of Housewives,” at a autograph session held at the Korea booth, and told her that he and his wife enjoyed watching the show.
The autograph session drew about 1,000 fans. Sun gave interviews with some 10 Cuban media outlets, including the Cuba Debate, an official paper for the Cuban Communist Party. The Chosun Ilbo quoted an executive from Cuba’s state broadcaster, Canal Havana, who said that, “Unlike South American soap operas that show infidelity and blind passion for as many as 200 episodes, Korean dramas have fast-moving stories that show pure love, which has made the Cuban people fall in love with them.”
In a report published in the JoongAng Ilbo on November 5, the newspaper said, “The popularity of Korean soap operas creates synergies with that of Korean pop music. The Cuban people’s favorite Korean stars are SHINee, Girls’ Generation, Infinite, as well as the song ‘Gangnam Style’ by Psy.”
“The popularity of Korean pop culture has lead to many Cubans’ affection and interest in Korea more generally. About 300 people signed up for the Korean language classes recently launched at the Jose Marti Cultural Society,” said the JoongAng Ilbo.
The newspaper quoted the vice president of the Jose Marti Cultural Society, Erasmo Lazcano, who said, “LG has been selling products in Cuba for more than two decades. Cubans know LG products are good, but they didn’t know from which country they came. In just one week, these TV shows did what LG couldn’t do over the past 20 years.”
Cuba’s state broadcaster, Canal Havana, will broadcast more Korean soap operas and air such Korea-made children’s cartoons as “Pororo” and “Larva,” said to the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA), the organization that ran the Korean content promotional booth at the FIHAV.
KOCCA President Hong Sang-pyo said, “Korea would like to develop its friendship with Cuba by expanding cultural exchanges associated with Korean content.”
By Yoon Sojung
Korea.net Staff Writer