The Korean Boom, the Chinese Boom, and Other Matters


The term “Korean boom” was apparently created by the Chinese media to describe the Korean popular culture boom that has swept through China since the 1990s.

The term “Korean boom” includes a wide variety of aspects, not only Korean songs, music, theater, dance, film, TV dramas and soccer, but also Korean games, clothing, cosmetics, cuisine, kimchi, and pomelo tea, as well as Korean CDs, VCDs, electronic goods and cars. Amidst this boom, many stars, singers, movie stars, soccer stars, musicians, dancers and models emerged. This Korean boom has spread through the modern mass media, including newspapers, magazines, radio, TV and the internet, from such big cities as Beijing and Shanghai to rural villages in inland areas, and from the northeast to the southwest of China.

The source of the Korean boom was South Korea; initially, it was not created intentionally, but the effect of the boom has been immense. Because of the Korean boom, people got to know South Koreans, South Korean culture and South Korean products. Many Chinese people changed their attitudes to South Korea because of the Korean boom, developing a favorable impression of the country and becoming interested in it. I must praise South Korea for consciously making good use of this phenomenon and opportunity to expand the Korean boom and use it to promote tourism. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Korea Tourism Organization designated 2004 “the year of Korean boom tourism”and publicized new South Korean films and TV dramas in China, as well as promoting the names of such famous stars as Jang Seo-hee (star of the soap opera “Miss Mermaid”), Song Il-gook (star of the TV drama “Terms of Endearment”) and Jang Na-ra (star of the soap opera “My Bratty Princess”). In addition, they held South Korea Weeks in Beijing, Shanghai, Harbin, Shenyang, Chengdu and even Hunan and Hubei, thereby building on the Korean boom.

These efforts by South Korea were appreciated and, when tourism in South Korea was opened up to Chinese people, the number of Chinese tourists visiting South Korea increased with every passing day. According to the Korean Weekly, the majority of tourists from China and Taiwan in 2004 had been influenced by the Korean boom. There is scope for verifying whether or not this information is accurate, but it is certainly the case that there are quite a few people in China who are infatuated with South Korean culture and arts. There are young fans, both male and female, who go to South Korea and cry because they cannot meet the stars whom they adore. In the sense that South Korea has skillfully used its own culture to develop its tourism industry, this is a successful example and would be worth drawing upon.

Recently, according to the things I have heard from friends when visiting South Korea, a “Chinese boom” is taking place and many people like Chinese TV dramas, films and novels, and are apparently studying the Chinese language. This can also be seen from the fact that the number of South Korean tourists visiting China has increased sharply. In 2004, China received 2.8 million South Korean tourists. By May 2005, the figure had already exceeded 1.4 million, overtaking the number of Japanese tourists for the first time. In order to promote this “Chinese boom”, the relevant authorities in China are taking active measures, such as establishing a Confucius Institute and China Culture Center in South Korea, holding Chinese Culture Weeks, and appointing South Korean stars as Chinese friendship ambassadors and having them participate in advertising campaigns for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Both the Korean and Chinese booms focus on a kind of cultural exchange. As a matter of course, cultural exchange involves promoting interaction between people, while at the same time promoting trade exchange, bringing about benefits for both. Consequently, I would like to see everyone supporting this kind of phenomenon and, in addition to the current Korean and Chinese booms, bringing about a “Japanese boom”, “Mongolian boom”, “North Korean boom” and a “Russian boom”. By spreading such “cultural booms” not only throughout our region, but also across the globe, we can use such popular culture to promote worldwide understanding of us and attract more tourists to East Asia. This would be beneficial to both the stability of the region and also its economic development, and would be one form of contribution to peace and development around the world. Accordingly, I want us to learn from South Korea and create a diverse “cultural boom”.

[Translated by ERINA]