Sunday, April 06, 2008

[ News, Culture / Events, March 23 2008] Tasting the mirage-like 'Korean wave'

In the last few years, Korean films, TV dramas and pop music have become immensely popular abroad, a phenomenon known as the Korean Wave. This is the first in a series of essays by a select group of foreign scholars and journalists looking at the spread of Korean pop culture in Southeast Asian countries and beyond. - Ed.

By Jennifer Pai

Korea was hard-hit by the Asia-wide financial crisis in the late 1990s, which sent its economy in a tailspin. Korea’s face-loving people were rather ashamed. Not too far away, fellow tiger-economy Taiwan heaved a sigh of relief that it was not embroiled in the financial turbulence. Some people in Taiwan probably were gleeful that their economic rival would be going down the drain. Little had they imagined that the Koreans would be demonstrating their perseverance in a fighting spirit, staging a rapid comeback by standing together at home and overseas while donating what resources they could - including personal jewelry - to rescue the nation’s economy. Korea’s national campaign to tide over the difficulty enabled the country to clear its debts to the International Monetary Fund ahead of schedule. What was even more exciting was yet to come. Emerging from the financial crisis, Korea went on to surprise its Asian neighbors by creating, in a graceful manner, what is now known as the "Korean Wave" of cultural exports that won the respect of its neighbors.

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