Past, Present and Future of Hallyu (Korean Wave)
Kim Bok-rae


Hallyu refers to the phenomenon of Korean popular culture which came into vogue in Southeast Asia and mainland China in late 1990s. Especially, hallyu is very popular among young people enchanted with Korean music (K-pop), dramas (K-drama), movies, fashion, food, and beauty in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Vietnam, etc. This cultural phenomenon has been closely connected with multi-layered transnational movements of people, information and capital flows in East Asia. Since the 15th century, East and West have been the two subjects of cultural phenomena. Such East–West dichotomy was articulated by Westerners in the scholarly tradition known as “Orientalism.”During the Age of Exploration (1400–1600), West didn’t only take control of East by military force, but also created a new concept of East/Orient, as Edward Said analyzed it expertly in his masterpiece Orientalism in 1978. Throughout the history of imperialism for nearly 4-5 centuries, West was a cognitive subject, but East was an object being recognized by the former. Accordingly, “civilization and modernization” became the exclusive properties of which West had copyright (?!), whereas East was a “sub-subject” to borrow or even plagiarize from Western standards. In this sense, (making) modern history in East Asia was a compulsive imitation of Western civilization or a catch-up with the West in other wards. Thus, it is interesting to note that East Asian people, after gaining economic power through “compressed modernization,”1 are eager to be main agents of their cultural activities in and through the enjoyment of East Asian popular culture in a postmodern era. In this transition from Westerncentered into East Asian-based popular culture, they are no longer sub-subjects of modernity. The aim of this paper is to analyze the origin of hallyu and its history from hallyu 1.0 into hallyu 4.0, to suggest future directions and a new perspective on hallyu. As Foucault says, “constructing reality through language” is the privilege of those who control power, isn’t it? So, the golden goose called hallyu can be conveniently dissected into four parts for export abroad: hallyu 1.0 (K-drama), hallyu 2.0 (K-pop music), hallyu 3.0 (K-culture) and hallyu 4.0 (K-style). However, the vogue of hallyu 3.0 or hallyu 4.0 on a portal site is not very long.2 Such a cryptic (?!) neologism has been coined one after another, since the neo-hallyu 2.0 took the lead over the former drama-based hallyu 1.0.

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