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The 'Korean Invasion': This is Just the Beginning

By Staff Reporter | September 13, 2012 12:49 PM EDT


Singer Psy's "Gangnam Style" and director Kim Ki Duk's 'Pietà' are currently influencing both Korea and the world.

The original Hallyu movement, which was led by Super Junior, Girls Generation, Wonder Girls and other idol groups, has been augmented to include even more Korean dramas and now it seems to be reaching yet another high point. 

Ultimately it was Psy, an older and more experienced singer, who was able to break into the world markets and a director known to be an outsider even in the Korean film industry, Kim Ki Duk, who won the highest honor at the Venice Film Festival, an internationally famous and respected film festival. They are not the players that are the most representative of Korean culture but this means that representativeness isn't the issue at hand. 

The ways to publicize and market pop culture is changing every day and at this point, the stage for K-Pop and Korean culture to grow is getting bigger. Hallyu isn't a movement because its representative of Korea but it will simply become a trend that will be spreading worldwide. 

Even amidst a turbulent relationship with Japan, Jang Keun Suk's popularity is continuing and actresses like Bae Doo Na and Kim Yunjin are being recognized worldwide and in Hollywood. Ultimately this means that if the content is right and the skills are there, it's possible to seize the opportunities that launch Korea and Korean culture in to the world spotlight. 

In this vein, that's why the 'Korean Invasion' is just beginning. 

'Pietà' and its win is an amazing feat for a Korean artist but its influence on Korean mainstream film is unknown. Kim Ki Duk was never known for his commerciality or financial success but by winning this award, he drew over 100,000 audiences to his movie, which was unheard of for him. Until now, an award at a foreign film festival didn't mean much but now it's moving the masses. 

Some people believe that this will allow more directors to aspire to be like Kim Ki Duk and make art-house movies that may win awards internationally. Though he was almost exclusively loved in Europe, his Golden Lion award may earn him the possibility to be considered for the Foreign Film category for the Academy Awards, where a Korean film has never set foot. This is an incredibly fresh take and an exciting possibility for Korean film and its future. 

On the other hand, Psy's "Gangnam Style" has reached over 140 million views since its release 60 days ago on YouTube. His success was never imagined or even expected. However, he has recently signed with Scooter Braun, appeared at the MTV VMAs and was invited to the LA Dodgers to show his dance. He has recently made appearances on many primetime talk shows, indicating his amazing rise in popularity in the US. 

Though most experts believe that Psy will simply be a one-hit-wonder, he has already made Korean pop culture history and testifies to the fact that it's really the content that appeals to world audiences. It proves that an artist no longer has to depend on a large management label to be globally successful. Like Kim Ki Duk and Psy was never the epitome of mainstream Korean pop culture. In a music industry now dominated by idol groups, Psy's music style and performance style have always been unique and entertaining. 

Despite the big management companies' efforts to propel its idol groups like Super Junior and the Wonder Girls into stardom worldwide, it was never as successful as Psy's. Though he is managed by YG Entertainment, the fact that he was managed by them did not contribute to his success. This was purely content-based success and whether he will be a one-time deal or a continuing artist is a question yet to be answered. 

If Psy and Kim Ki Duk became overnight stars, Jang Keun Suk has emerged as the best Hallyu star in Asia for the best two years. In Japan, his popularity is now beyond Bae Yong Joon and his fame has spread to China and other parts of Southeast Asia. With his 2010 drama, "You're Beautiful," he was aiming for international markets with his acting, his singing and dancing. 

He hasn't had a hit project since that drama but he has continually been holding concerts and events in foreign countries and has huge amounts of fans everywhere. In China, Jang Keun Suk's Weibo account now reaches 5,000,000 followers and this is the highest number of followers for a non-Chinese celebrity. His management company says, "International fans know that he is Korean but whether there are diplomatic problems between the countries, it doesn't seem to bother them that he is Korean. His fan appeal is incredibly unique and also stable."

Meanwhile in Hollywood, Kim Yunjin, Lee Byung Hun and Bae Doo Na are waving the Korean flag.

Kim Yunjin was touted for being a member of a hit drama series called "Lost" and now is in the process of filming a new ABC drama called "Mistresses." For "Mistresses" her name is second on the credits. 

Lee Byung Hun is currently filming "RED 2" after his success in the "G.I. Joe" series and seems to continue appearing in blockbusters. 

Bae Doo Na was recently seen in the trailer for the Wachowski Siblings' sci-fi blockbuster "Cloud Atlas" as one of the lead roles and she was spotted on the red carpet for the Toronto International Film Festival, promoting the event. "Cloud Atlas" includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon and other A-list stars. Even among them, Bae Doo Na received raving reviews from critics in Toronto.

Experts say that many Korean actors who have potential to be entertainers and step beyond the language boundaries, may have more possibilities in the international markets in the future.

Tagged :  Psy, Gangnam Style, Kim Ki Duk, Bae Doo Na, Lee Byung Hun, Jang Keun Suk


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