Our nations can use cultural exchanges to build partnerships
Posted Friday, October 18 2013 at 01:00
The booming Korean popular culture has also transformed into preference for other Korean products and lifestyles alike, leading to an increase in Korean product sales overseas.
In this age of globalisation, cultural exchanges can play increasingly important role for promoting mutual understanding, friendship, solidarity and partnership between our nations. This is because it embodies and promotes people-to-people diplomacy in the ever expanding domain of leisure, sports and tourism, exhibitions, entertainment and social media, among others.
Mindful of this, as the Republic of Korea and Uganda celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties this year, it seems only fitting that we also devote our energy and resources to the cultural festivities to fulfill our celebrations. As for the package of our Golden Jubilee commemorations, the first half of this year focused on formal, diplomatic and business-related events like the first-ever Summit Meeting on the occasion of President Museveni’s historical visit to Korea, Korean trade delegation’s visit to Uganda and public lecture at the Makerere University. Now, the spotlight is on cultural events.
Ministers of tourism of Korea and Uganda have already met twice last August, in Korea and Africa. Uganda’s marquee dance group, Ndere, gave successful live performances before large Korean audiences in Seoul and Suncheon. In Kampala, starting next week, there will be a series of Korean cultural festivities organised by the embassy to showcase Korea’s culture to Uganda. A very dynamic and popular dance group called ‘’Legend K’’ will be performing live on October 22-23 at Imperial Royal Hotel, followed by the Korean Food Festival on November 20, and Korean Film Festival early December.
At this juncture, I think explanation about the “Korean Wave” or Hallyu is called for. It refers to the phenomenon of Korean entertainment and popular culture rolling over the world with pop music, TV dramas, and movies. The Korean term “Hallyu” was first coined by the Chinese press in the late 1990s to describe the growing popularity of Korean pop culture in China. Korean Wave was first driven by Korean dramas televised across Asia, and then it evolved into a global phenomenon. The proliferation of Korean pop (K-pop) music videos on YouTube contributed to this development. PSY’s Kangnam Style is a good example.
Over the last decade, Korea has emerged as a new centre for the production of transnational pop culture. Korean Wave has now spread well beyond Asia, reaching as far as Latin America, Middle East, Europe and Africa. The Korean wave has been reaching new heights alongside the rise of digital technology and online media, which have bridged the gap by allowing local culture to travel to remote corners of the world. It has caught the attention of the foreign media.
K-pop, television dramas, and movies have gained phenomenal popularity, becoming the newest engine for expanding the country’s cultural exports and an integral part of Korea’s national image. This often led to Hallyu fans craving other Korean cultural contents and Korean language education. The booming Korean popular culture has also transformed into preference for other Korean products and lifestyles alike, leading to an increase in Korean product sales overseas. There are observations that even Korea’s already famous global companies like Samsung, LG, Hyundai, etc., have reaped benefits by this phenomenon. Also, the growing attraction of Korean culture has further triggered a rise in inbound foreign tourists to Korea.
Just some examples of Korean Wave popularity outside Asia (Wikipedia): In February 2013, Peru’s Vice President named K-pop as “one of the main factors that made Peruvian people wanting to get to know South Korea more”; In Turkey, the total number of members registered by K-pop fan clubs across the country is estimated to have surpassed 100,000 for the first time, with one particular fan club drawing almost 13,000 fans; Over in the West, the number of Hallyu fans in France has also surpassed 100,000.
Even in Uganda, although at the modest level, people have begun enjoying Korean dramas or movies, watching TV or DVDs. So let’s find out about K-pop and the Korean Wave, starting with the Legend K concert. This two-day concert is open to general public (free admission), so everyone is welcome.
Park Jong-Dae is the Charge d’Affaires, Embassy of the Republic of Korea.