'Koreawood': the new global dream factory

Is Bong Joon-Ho the new Tarantino? And Blackpink have become the Spice Girls of generation z? Never before Asian culture had exerted so much influence in th

'Koreawood': the new global dream factory

Is Bong Joon-Ho the new Tarantino? And Blackpink have become the Spice Girls of generation z? Never before Asian culture had exerted so much influence in the West. The squid game, the Netflix Bombazo with Korean accent, is only the last episode of this turn in global trends. South Korea has been proposed to be the world potential of soft power. And he is getting it, in an unprecedented suffering to China and Japan. The question is: How have you achieved it?

"Korean filmmakers have long have an outstanding presence at the Festivals in Europe, then came the success of its literature among Western publishers and now with music continues to strengthen its national identity," reflects Menene Gras, responsible for culture and exhibitions in Casa Asia, where he runs the Asian Film Festival held until November 7 in Barcelona.

Beyond Bong Joon-Ho (Author, among others, De Memories of Murder, The Host, Ojka and parasites, first non-English speaking title to win the Oscar for Best Film, in 2020), South Korea has exported the works of Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy, Jury Prize in Cannes in 2004, adapted in 2013 by Spike Lee for the US market) or Kim Ki-Duk (Iron 3), usual of the Film Festivals, died last year at 59 by Coronavirus.

For art criticism Menene Gras the new Korean wave (or Hallyu, as is also known to the phenomenon) is part of "a radical turn" in Asia's cultural policy during the last two decades. She talks about "an awakening", an awareness of opening out that she is going to the rise of postcolonialist thought and the economic growth of the region. She compares the current South Korea with Japan who, after World War II, used culture to scare away the ghosts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and repair its exterior image.

"During several generations the influence of Japanese culture among young Western has been tremendous," says the writer José Antonio de Ory, who lived for a time in Japan. He cites the anime and the manga, as well as toys like the tamagotchi, that endearing virtual mascot that reached the courtyard of the schools in Spain in the second half of the 90s.

What is known as Culture Otaku has returned among those born in the turn of a century: musicians such as Rizha, Ghouljaboy and Vanitty Vercetti are inspired by that androgynous, dreamer and colorful aesthetic who sublimate childhood.

But if before the Spanish children grew by seeing the drawings of Doraemon and the teenagers pouring the mornings of the Sundays connected to Telecinco with the delirious yellow humor programs along with Beat Takeshi (the alias of Japanese filmmaker Takeshi Kitano), now they get hooked in loop Korean hardware such as Something in the Rain or My Only Love Song that razes in Netflix.

"There is a matter of interesting background and geostrategic policy and interests play in this cultural movement", reflects José Antonio de Ory. Considers that Japan continues to maintain its influence, "although it seems to have disapproved, as if it mattered less the world," and that while the imaginary of South Korea continues to expand between the West, China "can not be attractive", despite its growing power Economic and military. "Does not know how to sell or do you do not care about it?" He asks him.

"The problem is that nationalism and authoritarianism clash frontally with globalization," summarizes the cultural critic Jorge Carrión at The New York Times in Spanish. That is the paradox of the New China, trapped that Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in a capitalist personality face to his exports (looking for the viral and profit at any price) and a ferre communism with drops of confliction in inner politics .

The concept of soft power was coined three decades ago by Harvard's teacher Joseph Nye. Behind the cinema, the series, novels and music is not just a way to see the world. "It's the economy, stupid!", James Carville would say, Bill Clinton's exaser in the 1992 campaign. And I would hit: the benefits generated by the cultural industry (107,000 million dollars a year, according to the South Korea Creative Content State Agency ) They have not stopped growing for two decades.

Netflix is being lined with the squid game, which has already generated 891 million dollars. You have to add a powerful video game industry with titles such as Playerunknown's Battleground and Dungeon Fighter Online or the Korean cosmetics sector, with business giants behind as amoepacific.

An article in Financial Times points to a surprising reason why South Korea is increasingly focused on the West: China's jealousy, which has historically been its main market receiving more than half of sector exports. The thriving Korean competitiveness in technology and entertainment have triggered various Boicot campaigns against Korean products.

"We no longer do business with China and Japan in mind, now we look at the global market," says K-Pop magnate and owner RBW Kim Jin-Woo.

Its strategy has caught 10,000 kilometers from Seoul. In Madrid, Cristina Díaz, 26 years old, K-Pop fan since 2013. This summer she won in the way of singing the band contest that was celebrated in the summers of the village. Although she still does not know how to speak Korean, she memorizes the lyrics of the songs and pronunciation to sound exactly as the idol of her.

"When I discovered it by YouTube, it fascinated me: they sang and danced at the same time, made vocal improvisations, I had never seen anything the same," says this musicologist who has been presenting to contests in Spain with a dream: traveling to South Korea. Winning in Madrid does not guarantee that she may be in the world final: there are similar tournaments in more than 100 countries and only between 10 and 15 artists are selected to compete in the cradle of K-pop.

Describe this music as a mix of genres (pop, R & B, Hip Hop, Electronics) designed to be catchy. Behind each band there is a company that runs the races (every seven years the groups usually dissolve) and an algorithm that designs the perfect chorus. "That is commercial is not negative," says Madrid, who says he is aware of the shadows of the industry: Hyper competitiveness, abusive diets to fulfill the Asian beauty canon of extreme thinness ... "Luckily, it is changing Little by little thanks to the allegations from within some artists, "he says.

The K-Pop is the new reggaeton for the youngest. Those who were born in the new century do not want perreo but the blackpink choreographies ideal for Tiktok, a Chinese application viralized during the pandemic. "Before these groups did not come to touch Europe, it was a minority. Fans made Flash Mobs [unexpected meetings in public places of coordinated crowds that are quickly dispersed] to try to draw their attention. Now it is normal that there are concerts here, all those of My age know who are BTS ".

There are already meeting spaces such as the Asian Party, which began in 2012 in Madrid. Before the pandemic gathered 600 people every month in the capital and, from there, they jumped to other cities in Spain. They are discotheques reconverted in a massive karaoke with giant video clips where the audience practices choreography, sings shouting and disguised. "For every 100 that enters only 30 drink alcohol, it is a very healthy atmosphere," says Joel Ruiz, responsible for the brand. The public is very young (it does not happen every 30 years), most are girls and spanish (often assisting 30% Asian origin, especially Chinese).

In this boom, the expansion of Korean cultural centers around the world played: there are 32 in 27 countries. That of Spain meets in 2021 its tenth anniversary. "Korean content captivates everyone," says his director, oh Ji-Hoon. Through Events of all kinds explore "a new choreanity", a kind of modern identity. In the K-Week that was held a few days ago in Madrid there were exhibitions of Taekwondo, tasting of gastronomy or K-Beauty workshops (everything goes with K, as Korea in English).

"The perception that arouses South Korea is that of a small, friendly, non-controversial and increasingly cool country," says the diplomat Jaime González Castaño. A country similar to Spain inhabitants (52 million) that is managing to compete with China (1,400 million) and Japan (126 million), but also, increasingly, with the United States (329 million).

"It has changed the perspective, it is difficult for us to keep looking at the same as before the United States, that look is now more melancholy, while East offers more expectations of the future. But you have to be cautious, the growth lines are never straight. How long? Fashions like the k-pop? Maybe tomorrow we're talking about something else, "warns the expert Menene Gras.

The 20th century was the American Hollywood dream factory, that of Coca-Cola, Apple and Michael Jordan. This new century has been that of the destruction of symbols that seemed eternal and that of the vindication of the peripheries. The West moves at the speed that Mark Hyundai and Kia, Samsung and LG are omnipresent while thinkers like Byung-Chul have warn from the drift of capitalist society.

In the Koreawood era may not be looked for substitutes to Tarantino or the Spice Girls, because perhaps nobody agrees to them.

Date Of Update: 29 October 2021, 21:40

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