The Surge in the Hallyu Wave

Medha Shah, Reporter

CENTENNIAL HIGH SCHOOL- There was a time when we barely knew anything about our East Asian distant- neighbors and the only exposure we had was “Gangnam Style.” Today, East Asian trends are more globalized than ever. The Hallyu Wave (or the Korean Wave) represents the boom in the global popularity of the Republic of Korea’s popular culture in terms of exports. This wave features famous K-dramas like “Squid Game,” “Money Heist,” and “Extraordinary Attorney Woo,” to the beauty trends that have taken the U.S. by storm, everyone has opinions on their breakthrough into the Western market. While it may seem like 2020 was the year when all of these got popular, it’s been in the making for a while. 

Kpop started in the 1990s when “1st Generation” groups formed. A “Generation” is when there’s an entirely unique, new style in music introduced. These were the artists that had a strong passion for songwriting and performing. A couple of these Kpop idols actually founded the agencies people know today- known as the Big 4 (HYBE, JYP, YG, SM). Many general Kpop stans know 4th Generation idols more than any other generation since 2018 until now has been when Kpop got mainstream. Now you may recognize some pretty big names like Blackpink and BTS, but those are actually 3rd generation groups with huge, stable fandoms. When most people think of Kpop, they think of Korean Pop. While this is true for the overall industry, there are many groups with different concepts, styles, strengths, and even types of ways they interact with their fans. Obviously, every industry must have some cons. Some of these main cons are the debut of extremely young people (think teenagers), the conservative stigma around expressing yourself boldly, colorism, and cultural appropriation. Most of these come from being unfamiliar with other cultures and what they value.  The fandom can also be pretty invasive to idols’ privacy and the arguably human mistakes idols make. 

Darren Hu is a Taiwanese descendant that has some exposure to Eastern culture with some mixed opinions about it. 

“I think it’s pretty cool actually. A lot of the songs are great. Kpop is nice, but I don’t like the fact that the fandom is sort of crazy for, like, mainstream Kpop groups like BTS and Blackpink. Some of these people idolize those celebrities like their gods of some sort. Not all fans, but some of these fans sort of ruin the experience of the industry,” Hu says.

Next up is beauty. Foundation spatulas, plastic surgery normalization, and the birth of new beauty standards have caused many people to gain better access to skincare and beauty products. They have become the new trend for getting glowing, clear skin. According to an anonymous 10th grader at Centennial, there are some specific reasons why they started to use these products.

“First of all, they’re a lot cheaper and work better in most cases than U.S. skincare products. Like you get more for your money,” the student says.

Finally, there’s been a huge explosion in the popularity of East Asian dramas these last few years. Since the award-winning “Squid Game” came out with a lot of mainstream and international attention, few people would not know what it is. Many people like East Asian dramas for their production and filmmaking which hit many emotions throughout the plot. While there are some misconceptions about Korean dramas that they are too romantic or mushy, Kdramas span a huge span of concepts in actuality. 

An anonymous source explained her reaction to Kdramas- specifically “Squid Game”.

 “I knew what conventional Kdramas were and had watched one or two before.”

“I liked how Squid Game was childish with its kid games. At first, I thought the settings were weird, but then they grew on me. When it came to Kdramas, I thought they were sappy romances until I watched Squid Game.” 

This growth of East culture is great for how it shows how far the industry as a whole has come in the U.S.  in understanding and trying to get to know different cultures better. Overall, it shows how people from different industries and cultures want to understand other peoples’ cultures. Culture is interesting in how different aspects of cultures can interconnect and be more entertaining to learn about and explore than what we’re used to. So next time you see a Kpop music video, maybe check it out. It might surprise you.