How long will ``hallyu’’ or the Korean wave last? Will it fizzle out like the fad for Hong Kong movies that once gripped the world? Or will it remain a long-lasting culture phenomenon?
A report released by the central Bank of Korea earlier this week paints a temporary rosy picture for hallyu, a term meaning the fast growing popularity of Korean entertainment and culture abroad.
According to the report, Korean exports of music and video content amounted to 155 billion won ($137 million) in the first half of this year, boosted by the hallyu craze abroad. The figure is below that of the second half of last year because of year-end concerts but represents an 11.4 percent increase from a year earlier. It was also a record first-half tally.
This trend will continue in the second half as more Korean pop and movie stars go abroad. ``Exports of cultural and entertainment content will set a new record this year. Although the global economy is slowing due to the eurozone crisis, the Asian market still retains its buying power,’’ Yonhap News reported, quoting a researcher from the Hyundai Research Institute.
The Korean wave also pushed up sales and stock prices of the nation’s top three entertainment agencies ― SM, YG and JYP. These three companies posted combined sales of 78.6 billion won last year abroad, more than triple the 21 billion won in 2009. The proportion of overseas sales to their total sales surged from 19.5 percent in 2009 to 41.2 percent last year.
The share price of SM was 1,412 won on the first day of 2009 and reached a peak at 51,479 won on Feb. 20 before falling to 49,450 won on Aug. 6. YG’s stock price began at 39,100 won on Nov. 23 last year, the first trading day, and peaked at 60,900 won in February before dropping to 51,600 won on Aug. 6.
Indeed the hallyu boom is expanding beyond Asia to the rest of the world. The Korean wave began with Korean dramas in the 1990s but its impact is branching out into computer games, movies, food and tourism. Hallyu plays a key role in changing foreigners’ perception of Korea ― from a war-ravaged country to a nation with a refined culture and an advanced economy.
However, as far as longevity is concerned, the situation is different. More than anything else, there is growing criticism that K-pop and Korean dramas have become too commercialized. More people also seem fed up with similar ``idol’’ dance groups cropping up like mushrooms.
The most serious concern is that hallyu might fail to establish itself as a mainstream culture and fade away as a passing fad. According to a survey of 3,600 people in nine countries, six out of 10 forecast that the Korean wave will disappear in five years; those in Japan, China and Taiwan were more skeptical.
Against this backdrop, the government and businesses will have to rack their brains to keep the hallyu fever high and contagious.