If you know Rain, BoA (shown left), and Sistar, then you already know K-Pop, Korea’s contemporary pop music and its artists.
K-Pop music is one of the fastest growing music genres in the world, and along with Korea’s popular TV drama serials, films and comic books are a growing source of export revenue for Korea.
The growing global fan base of Korea's entertainment and cultural offerings, known as "Hallyu" or the "Korean Wave" feels more like a tidal wave in some countries. In France, for example, fans mostly in their youth sold out a concert in Paris reportedly in fifteen minutes. Several hundred fans who missed out on tickets held a rally and danced to K-Pop music in front of the Louvre Museum campaigning for a second concert. They got their wish for a second concert which also sold out in minutes. A flash mob as witnessed by this YouTube video shows hundreds of fans from all ethnicities crowding the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris last June, 2011 to welcome their favorite K-Pop artists. (image right)
On December 31, 2011 Korea's Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Choe Kwang-shik announced a 2012 policy to expand support of Hallyu, to help keep the wave of Korean pop culture surging across its borders. The Korean government also hopes to attract more Hallyu fans into the areas of food, tourism, fashion and other cultural and entertainment offerings.
Leaders from Hollywood and S. Korea’s entertainment industry and academia convened in November for a summit at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles to explore the impact and future of Korea’s pop culture and entertainment, encompassing its music, films, television drama serials, and comic books.
The two-day summit Korean Wave Initiative – Hallyu: Riding the Korean Culture Wave for a Globalized World was held to explore the exciting developments of this trend and to discuss ways for Korea to promote this as a global brand.
The event was organized by the Asia Society Korea Center, and co-organized by the Asia Society of Los Angeles, Asia Society of Northern California, and the Korean Studies Institute at University of Southern California. (View more images of the Korean Wave Initiative summit at USC in LA on the Homepage).
The USC event was timely, just one week later two K-Pop concerts on Thanksgiving weekend in Las Vegas were hosted for the first time by Billboard Korea. Billboard, the 117 year old media conglomerate is not missing a beat and is getting into the K-Pop world with its 2011 launch of Billboard Korea, Billboard K-Pop Hot 100 Chart, and its first Las Vegas K-Pop concerts, 2011 Billboard K-Pop Masters, presented by MGM Grand.
Two other major K-Pop concerts were hosted on the East coast this past Fall by K-Pop veteran organizers, a free concert in New Jersey, KBS Free Concert which was part of the New York Korea Festival, and at Madison Square Garden in New York City SMTown NYC produced by S. Korean entertainment company SMTown.
The opening session at USC featured a conversation about the history of Korean film with award-winning S. Korean film director Im Kwong-taek (image left) with USC’s Dr. Youngmin Choe, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Culture. Im Kwon-taek is credited as one of the founding figures of the film movement "New Korean Cinema," also known as "Korean New Wave" which has brought worldwide critical acclaim to Korean cinema.
The second day event explored the evolving image of Korean-Americans in U.S. entertainment with writer and producer Albert Kim (Nikita), actor C.S. Lee (Dexter & The Sopranos), actor James Kyson Lee (Heroes), and filmmaker Christine Yoo (Wedding Palace). Both days events were moderated by USC's Dr. David Kang, Professor of International Relations and Business, and Director of the Korean Studies Institute.
The Korean Wave Initiative summit culminated in an awards dinner featuring examples of S. Korea's finest cuisine and fashion. Korean Consul General Yeon-Sung Shin welcomed the dinner guests arriving in black tie and Asian national dress to his residence in Los Angeles.
Yvonne Kim, Executive Director of Asia Society Korea Center emceed the evening and hosted a talk on stage with Master Chef Bruce Byung-Woo Lee of Lotte Hotel Seoul (image right) who flew in to prepare the dinner which was attended by members of Hollywood and Korea’s entertainment industry, business, education, and government.
The Women Leader Award was presented to Michelle Park Steel, Vice Chair of the California Board of Equalization, currently the highest ranking Korean American elected official in the U.S. Steel graciously acknowledged her strong family ties to Korean culture and emphasis on education.
Sujin Nam pianist, composer, and music director (image right) was presented with Asia Society Korea Center's Cultural Ambassador Award. Nam, born in Seoul, Korea has been playing the piano since she was 4. She moved to the U.S. to further her music education, and has a diverse background in music from classical to jazz. She has been a film composer for numerous Hollywood films and television shows. She cited her Korean cultural background as a positive influence on her career.
"Hansik" a Korean term meaning Korean food was taken to new, innovative heights by Chef Lee. Chef Lee is busy creating new Korean food recipes designed for the palates of the global community. For the eight course dinner, Chef Lee expertly blended French haute cuisine influences with traditional Korean cooking principles in both hot and cold dishes served in beautiful presentations. Chef Lee is the recipient of the 1st Great Chefs of Asia Award, a gold medal at the 8th Singapore Salon Culinaire in the cold food category, and the Tin Tower Order of Industrial Service Medal.
Throughout the evening, each course was introduced by speakers who discussed the significance of the Korean dish and its healthy benefits. Asia Society of S. California board member Peter Shiao introduced Bibimbap, one of the most popular Korean dishes. He taught guests how to correctly say “Bibimbap” (bee-beem-bahp). Chef Lee’s Bibimbap featured rice mixed with a variety of vegetables including cooked spinach, fresh shredded carrots, and bean sprouts with Yangnyum-gochujang, a red chili pepper sauce drizzled on top.
Asia Society’s Asia 21 Young Leaders Initiative Fellow and NBC West Coast correspondent Jinah Kim-Perek introduced Royal Seafood Sin Seol Ro, also called Sinseollo, inspired from a Korean royal court recipe historically prepared only for the King. Chef Lee prepared this royal court dish with a special cod only available in Korea in the Fall, and shrimp, crawfish, and vegetables in a fish broth served in individual silver hotpots which were specially hand delivered from Korea. The term “sinseon” means “Taoist immortal spirit.”
Another dish was Japchae, glass noodles made of sweet potato, with braised beef, jujube and chestnut with Bulgogi sauce. The salty yet sweet Bulgogi sauce infused into the beef and glass noodles, making every bite filled with the delicious flavor of the sauce.
Buckwheat tea was a nice complement at the end of the meal.
Guests were treated to a fashion show of exquisite Hanbok gowns, the Korean traditional dress worn at celebrations and traditional festivals. Both traditional Hanbok and modernized Gae-ryang Hanbok were modeled. A Hanbok includes a Jeogori, a short blouse-like shirt with sleeves, and Chima, a long skirt usually with a Sokchima, an underskirt or petticoat which gives the skirt its full, rounded shape, elegantly flowing to the floor.
Under the golden glow of the Asia Society’s distinctive Leogryph logo projected on the pool and wall of the Korean Consul General’s residence, the inaugural Asia Society Korea Center Hansik dinner on the final night of the Korean Wave Initiative provided an ideal setting for a cross-cultural introduction to the finest in Korean entertainment, pop culture, food and fashion and for fostering new relationships between leaders of U.S. and Korea’s entertainment industries.
Asia Society S. California Chairman Tom McLain says, “The Korean Wave Initiative successfully exposed the best of Korean culture, both traditional and pop, and truly established the stepping stone for further developing Korean culture around the world.”
By Amy Lieu
Visit our Homepage at AsianConnections.com to view more images of the Korean Wave Initiative!
Contributors to this story include
Luminaire Images, Asia Society Korea Center liaison Lydia Lee,
BoA official website, Billboard Korea KPOP Masters,
and Suzanne Joe Kai, editor/publisher of AsianConnections.com.
Check out AsianConnections.com's two exclusive interviews with Korean Pop star Rain about his first U.S. film role in Speed Racer:
Rain says hello to fans at AsianConnections.com (:43)
Rain talks with AsianConnections.com's Annie Chang about his role in Speed Racer and future roles. (6:43)
About the Asia Society:
Asia Society is one of the leading global and pan-Asian organizations. It works to promote understanding between the United States and Asia, and aims to strengthen relationships among its people, leaders and institutions across the fields of arts, culture, policy, business and education.
About the Asia Society Korea Center:
2011 marks the third anniversary of the Asia Society Korea Center. The non-profit, non-partisan organization seeks to increase understanding and engagement in issues of cultural, education, political, business and technological importance to Korea and the greater Asia-Pacific region.