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Keeping Up with the Korean Wave

By Frances Danielle Sabulao

It seems that the Koreans are the newest gods and goddesses to be worshipped these days. K-pop culture or simply K-pop has rapidly invaded the Filipino television and music industry. The Korean wave has been the newest trend these days that even rival networks would air Koreanovelas on the same timeslots in the hopes of getting better ratings. Boys and girls of all ages are hooked to them. Why is everyone so fascinated by them? What is so enchanting with these chinky-eyed porcelain-skinned Korean dolls?


Let's freshen up our memories and rewind everything to eight years ago. It all started with Endless Love: Autumn in my Heart in 2003. Who could forget the heart-wrenching story of Jenny and Johnny? If you’re a true blue Korean fan, you’d surely know them. Their story started when Johnny, as a child, mistakenly exchanged the nametags of two infants. One of which was actually his sister, while the other child was his would-be love interest. Along came Full House, Kim Sam Soon, Lovers in Paris and Princess Hours. The list of Koreanovelas is never-ending.

It was not until the drama Boys over Flowers (BOF) when the dawn of Koreanovelas was at its peak. It was all about an ordinary girl whose life turned a full 360° when she met the F4 composed of four young Adonises whose goal in life was to enjoy life to the fullest while they still can. It's a story of finding yourself, fighting for your belief, love and friendship. Every Filipino, young and old alike, grew fond over them. Everywhere you go, you'd see their faces, from the desktop wallpapers in the computers to mobile phones. Just look at the posters sold along the sidewalk. Most definitely, you'd see Korean faces smiling back at you. It took quite some time before the BOF mania went down. Even after the end of the Boys Over Flowers series and even after several rewinds of it, the Korean wave fever did not diminish.


With the internet and MTV as resources, the hoi polloi eventually found a new craze in the form of K-pop – DBSK, Rain, Lee Min Ho from BOF, Big Bang, 2NE1, Girls Generation, Wondergirls and Super Junior. Just recently also, the soap My Girlfriend is a Gumiho truly captured the Pinoy hearts. Even Korean restaurants are getting popular especially with Thomasians like Santorini in P. Noval and Hanayo in Dapitan (Antonio St. to be exact). Like an epidemic, the K-pop culture surged upward dramatically; accumulating hordes of avid fanatics everywhere. Slowly but surely, they made their way into the Pinoy music industry and the Filipino community embraced them like wildfire. You'll hear people in trains singing to the tune of "Fire" or little children on the streets dancing to the beat of "Nobody" which are songs by 2NE1 and Wondergirls respectively; both are popular K-pop girl groups. It doesn't matter whether the Pinoys can’t understand their language. They can always learn how to speak Korean and learn hanggeul with the aid of the internet.

Their popularity is so infectious that even countries like the USA, Taiwan, Japan, China and other Southeast Asian countries are catching the fever. Thanks to the internet, these countries can get their daily dose of K-pop and Koreanovelas. Fans are so passionate that they have their own blogs, fan clubs, forums, and networking sites. Articles in the internet even tell of a number of Pinoy fans who even go to South Korea just to watch their concerts. No wonder their tourism is booming!

Why Korea?

So, really, why do Filipinos love the Korean wave? One big factor could be their versatility. Before these Korean pop stars became that big, they underwent a very rigid training which lasts for 4-6 years. Until then, they cannot debut as an idol. For this span of time, they are trained how to dance, sing, act, model, rap and even speak different languages so that they could become what we call the “complete package”. Of course, their looks are just bonuses.

Another factor is their appearances; not only do they have white and smooth skin like porcelain dolls but they have this mysterious charisma about them. They are able to capture their fans’ hearts effortlessly.

Another thing is the variety of what they do. There’s a whole new concept with every album and concert. They never fail to keep their fans wanting for more.

Lastly, the fact that they are very different to what the everyday Filipino is used to is probably the greatest factor. With their uniqueness and energy, it’s no surprise that the fans are head-over-heels for them.


However, there’s no denying that along with the Korean wave fans are the haters. They go hand-in-hand, like the two sides of a coin. Some people get sick with the over-the-top cuteness and outrageous fashion sense. This is understandable since we all have different tastes and one just can’t please everybody.

Whichever side you’re in or whether you’re neutral or you’re apathetic about the whole issue, music is still music. As long as you’re still entertained with the drama you’re watching or the music you’re listening to, it does not matter. The fact that the Filipinos appreciate the diversity of other people's culture means that they understand how different we are from them. However, with this entire craze and fondness for other cultures, the challenge is to be able to retain their self-identity and the Pinoy culture.


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