The Rise of Everything ‘K’

Hallyu, which translates to “Korean wave,” is a term used to refer to the cultural phenomenon of Korean music (K-Pop) and television dramas (K-Drama) that are driving the globalization and commercialization of everything “K” (Korean not Kardashian). The Center for Asian Business welcomed Angela Killoren to LMU on November 9 as part of the Center for Asian Business Y.B. Min Lecture Series.

Angela is the chief operating officer of CJ E&M America, the Los Angeles subsidiary of Korea’s leading entertainment conglomerate. She previously served as chief marketing officer of CJ E&M and before that was associate director for the Center for Asian Pacific Leadership at USC. Angela has a bachelor’s degree in Chinese from Columbia University.

Angela started off her presentation, titled “The Letter K: We Own That,” by giving a brief history lesson on what led to the rise of the Korean wave. In 1994, Korean President Kim Young-sam sought to get Korea up the food chain of global economies by positioning Korea’s creative economy as a business. K-Drama is credited for starting the wave. Shows like “Winter Sonata” (2003) and “Jewel in the Palace” (2004) had enormous ratings and boosted tourism.

The K-Pop craze soon followed. YouTube has played a major role in the discovery and widespread adoration of K-Pop. In fact, Korean singer Psy still holds the record for most watched YouTube video of all time (2.64 billion views) with his hit single “Gangnam Style.” K-Pop groups tend to have English acronyms because they are built for a global audience. Examples include BIGBANG, TVXQ, EXO, BTS and SNSD.

Now we’re seeing the introduction of K-Beauty as well as K-Food and K-Fashion. And there are entire events devoted to all things ‘K’; the biggest being KCON, the annual K-Pop convention held in the United States and Japan that allows fans to interact with their favorite stars.

Millennials in particular are driving the rise of Hallyu for several reasons: desire for community; expert driven to social driven; multicultural openness; and the rise of the female gaze. So what does this tell us? According to Angela, it’s important to track Hallyu to see where youth culture is going. This fracturing of media consumption offers opportunities for alternative content. The increase of multicultural acceptance around the world is a hopeful sign.

Click here to access the full webcast of Angela’s presentation.