Cultural Influence Shifts and the Korean Wave

Contra flows (or counter flows), are used to describe the ever morphing points of cultural influence across the world. These flows ebb and flow into each other, and compete for power. With the rise of globalisation and media convergence, contra flows have become less static and can travel further distances with technological advances over the last century (Thussu, 2007).

No, this is not the ‘Korean Wave’

A perfect example of a shift in cultural flows is the overpowering Korean Wave, or Hallyu, that has swept over the world from its beginning in the mid-90s. It consists of all Korean media, but the primary driving forces behind the movement are K-Pop, TV dramas, and movies.

The influences emanating from South Korea are extremely powerful because of a few reasons

  • South Korea is the 13th richest country in the world by GDP, at $1.9916 trillion. With all this money, local producers have access to technology and resources that allow them to create high quality content.
  • In Asia, South Korea benefits from positive relationships with other countries in the area (except Japan, due to some wartime memories, but these barriers are wearing down). This means that there is less resistance from communities and governments to ideas and content generated in South Korea.
  • Extending on the last point, it also acts as a meeting point between Western culture, influenced mainly by the USA, and the East, influenced by China. This gives it a unique hybridity, meaning South Korean media is more accessible to Asian audiences than Western media, as it is somewhat familiar. At the same time, it is also relatable to audiences in the West, for example, this Drunken Tiger song utilises English in the chorus.

Because of its quality and wide appeal, South Korean media has gained a solid foothold in the global media sphere, overcoming and combining the ‘rival’ influences from competing countries to cement their cultural influence over the world.




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