South Korea is a region somewhat bigger than the U.S. state of Indiana. It has a populace of 50 million. And still its common society has absent world. In just the previous couple of months, the television collection Squid Sport smashed on the internet streaming documents, the Oxford English Dictionary additional 26 Korean phrases and the boyband BTS’ visual appeal at the United Nations 76th Common Assembly went viral – these are just some illustrations of the world’s obsession with Korean cultural articles.

K-pop boyband BTS appears at the These days present on Feb. 21, 2020, in New York Metropolis. (Impression credit rating: Raymond Hall / GC Photographs)

Korean cultural articles is well-liked because it’s really fantastic, suggests Dafna Zur, an affiliate professor in the Division of East Asian Languages and Cultures and scholar of Korean literature. Zur teaches courses on Korean literature, cinema and well-known tradition, and is the director of the Center for East Asian Experiments at Stanford.

Here, Zur talks about what can make Korean popular tradition effective and explains why it appeals to audiences all over the environment.

This job interview has been edited and condensed for duration and clarity.


What are some distinguishing features of Korean media, specifically its dramas?

Many thanks to streaming platforms like YouTube and Netflix, and to vigorous subtitling endeavours – with collaboration by admirers, as well – Korean pop music and dramas are extensively accessible and effortlessly accessible. Even when the articles is in Korean, there are few boundaries to entry.

Korean dramas strike a equilibrium of predictability and originality. Their tale arcs are normally predictable: rags to riches, rich boy satisfies bad female, young children defy their parents’ needs and strike out on their possess. But they have a Korean twist: Characters are deferential to their elders, sons and daughters are filial. The backdrop is hyper-modern and glitzy. The actors are polished and interesting. They enjoy people that are charming, susceptible, and have a balanced dose of self-deprecation. The scripts are whole of very good humor. Of training course, there is usually a dim twist: suffocating expectation, crushing poverty, a profound key that need to not get disclosed. Korean dramas humanize even the most aloof billionaires and get audiences to care – and generally, all they request of us is 16 hrs of our time.

Dafna Zur (Picture credit: Miriam Lim)

Korean media pour large means into their dramas. Dramas are collaborative productions that go to to every single very last element to assure a favourable viewing knowledge that is also wholesome and household welcoming. Viewers are certain to get superior photographs of Korean foodstuff, trend, street lifetime, and attractive countryside landscapes.


What about K-pop? Is there a comparable formulation or secret to its achievement?

Considerably of the achievements of K-pop has to do with the idols at the middle. K-pop idols are as near to elite athletes as you will at any time get in tunes talent. They are incredible dancers. They have tremendous charisma. They are disciplined and tricky-operating. They know how to converse to the camera and they know how to interact with 1 another in a way that draws in the enthusiasts. They sustain squeaky clean photos. Their actions is held up to really large specifications.

At the identical time, they venture extreme approachability. They ooze pleasurable and kindness, and they address their lovers in strategies that appear across as genuine. In return, lovers are loyal, as loyal to K-pop idols as any sports admirers are to their preferred teams. This sorts a seriously attention-grabbing dynamic amongst the idols and their admirers.


How so?

Idols get their admirers really significantly. Elaborate interaction platforms enable K-pop idols to discuss to their enthusiasts and to acknowledge fans’ purpose in their idols’ accomplishment. Fans are fiercely protective of their idols’ nicely-currently being. They reject followers who are also obsessive, like those people who intentionally ebook flights on the same planes as their idols. The bond that is constructed in between idol and their lovers is potent.

BTS, for case in point, started out as underdogs in Korea’s leisure field. They lacked the manufacturer recognition of Korea’s larger sized leisure corporations. Their results experienced as much to do with the loyalty they cultivated amongst their followers as with their expertise. Their supporter base is known as Military – all K-pop teams have a named supporter team. Army’s enthusiasm – and membership – has only been escalating in latest years.


How do your pupils currently who are acquainted with Korean tradition as a consumer answer to studying the nation from an educational standpoint? How has the area evolved offered the spread of Korean society abroad?

I initial went to South Korea in the early 1990s to get my black belt in taekwondo. I realized quite minor about the put I was going – I was not mindful that Korea had only just lately emerged as a democracy, for instance. There was continue to a ton of roughness about Seoul – it was not as polished as it is nowadays. Traffic was a mess. Bus motorists smoked though they labored. Back then I knew little about South Korea other than taekwondo.

By comparison, today’s college students have grown up with Korean common culture. “Gangnam Style” went viral in July of 2012 – that was nearly 10 decades in the past. Some of my students have never even noticed the video because they had been 8 or 9 when it arrived out. But they know SuperM, EXO, Blackpink, Girls’ Technology, Seventeen and so numerous other K-pop teams – far too lots of to point out in a person breath.

I come across that pupils are increasingly interested in partaking with Korean society on various amounts. They want to study the language, along with Korean literature, movie, historical past, politics and well-known culture. They want to recognize how a little place with constrained organic methods managed to grow to be a large economy and influencer in the cultural discipline. Learners also want to fully grasp North Korea and how South Korea can prosper although a nuclear North Korea, just across the border, provides a sophisticated security menace. It is not just South Korea’s challenge: North Korea shares a border with China and the Soviet Union, and Japan is just throughout the East Sea. Our pupils now know what took me yrs to figure out: Korea holds the crucial to financial, political and cultural puzzles nowadays. And it is way interesting.