Bolivian youngsters cheer participants of a K-pop contest at an outdoor stadium in La Paz on May 11. / Courtesy of Foreign Ministry
By Shim Jae-yun
Amb. Chun Young-wook
K-pop is sweeping Bolivia and playing a positive role in preventing juvenile delinquency.
"There is saying that the K-pop phenomenon (in Bolivia) is so hot that it thaws the permanent snow on Mt. Illimani surrounding La Paz, the nation's capital city," said Korean ambassador to Bolivia Chun Young-wook.
The Korean Embassy in Bolivia hosted a contest for K-pop dancing during the May 8 to 14 Korea Week, which brought together more than 3,500 participants. Some of them travelled for more than 10 hours from remote provinces.
"What is noteworthy is that the phenomenon is not temporary one, but has become ordinary and universal culture affecting the daily lives of Bolivian youngsters," Chun told The Korea Times. Chun is currently in Seoul to attend meetings of heads of overseas missions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He said, "It is easy to see groups of youths practicing K-pop dances in the plazas of La Paz and enjoying Korean dramas."
According to Chun, Bolivia "lacked a youthful entertainment culture," until the arrival of K-pop. Most young people there are from poor backgrounds amidst an environment of high youth unemployment, and many get ensnared in drug offences.
He was delighted that K-pop has been making a positive impact in creating stages for Bolivian youngsters to demonstrate their passion and energy. "For one thing, K-pop is suitable for them as it comprises group dancing which requires cooperation and friendship," he said.
"Bolivia is made up of various ethnic groups, and K-pop has been helping foment sociability and cooperation among youngsters, assuaging their sense of solitude. It is being used as sound healing culture that quenches their cultural thirst," he said.
Chun cited Girls Generation and TVXQ as the most famous K-pop stars in the Latin American nation.
"I know it is difficult for them to visit Bolivia for performances. But if they do so, it will be really big news for the young people, and I expect it will happen," he said.
The Bolivian government has been supportive of the embassy's campaign for K-pop events, and will provide further assistance in the future. "Officials from the city government highly appreciated the K-pop contests, describing them as having changed Bolivian youth more actively and positively," said Chun.
"Previously, Bolivian people, who used to be familiar with the socialist system, lacked understanding of Korea and its people. But now the situation has changed. They love and enjoy it as far as Korea is concerned," he added.