The Hallyu Effect on the Youths of Manipur

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KIMCHI which is the most favorite food of the Koreans is almost the new favorite food of the Manipuri youths, from posting about eating, making and buying of this Korean Food on their social networking sites. The question is, what made them discover this food?

Ever heard of Hallyu Wave? It would seem that Hallyu Wave, which also means the Korean Wave, is the one bringing about this trend. The term Korean wave was coined after the sharp rise in global popularity and interest in South Korean culture and pop culture. It encompasses the increase in Korean Pop (K-Pop), Korean Drama (K-Drama).

It is fascinating to note how a geographically small country like South Korea is expanding its culture and economy globally, and magnanimously.

The Hallyu Wave reached Manipur in the early 2000s when Bollywood was banned in the state and South Korean dramas became the most convenient form of leisure, and instantly attracted people to its culture and lifestyle. During the 2000s when there were no significant internet services available in the state, the Korean media was consumed through a popular South Korean TV channel Arirang, and in the form of CDs and DVDs.

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Ever since internet services in Manipur became popular (early 2010s), the Korean media consumption sky rocketed and alongside K-Pop gained increased popularity. Streaming sites for video and music like YouTube, Spotify helped boost the popularity of K-Pop and K-Drama.

It’s no lie that K-Pop and K-Drama has gained popularity in other NE states too but the Hallyu effect doesn’t end here. Both K-Pop and K-Drama have exerted strong influences on young people, acting not just as an entertainment but also functioning as a Cultural Bridge in understanding of the Korean Culture. The advent of digital technologies has allowed multi-directional distribution of the cultural products and blurred the boundaries between popular cultures. As people gain more access to information on different cultures they are no longer living in a bubble and sticking to what they know. They are exploring different aspects of different cultures (including the Korean culture) which are very diverse and unique from one another.

During the last five years, many Korean Cuisine Restaurants have opened in the state which caters a sense of Korean lifestyle. Korean convenience store foods like spicy noodles, kimchi flavored noodles and jajangmyeon noodles etc have become popular. Korean Mukbang (eating) videos on YouTube also popularized the Korean Foods among the viewers. Even during this COVID-19 lockdown, young people are trying their hands at cooking home-made Korean dishes and even selling it online through their Instagram accounts. Korean cooking class might even be the next business venture trend in the state. Speaking about class, Korean Language program is available at Manipur University and is one among the most sought-after language course which explains the popularity itself.

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Fashion and Beauty trend is one among the most visible influence of the Hallyu Wave.

Fashion of the youth of Manipur and other NE States of India are heavily influenced by Korean Fashion and Beauty (K-beauty) trend. Youth of the NE states can still dress fashionably without needing a fashion class, thanks to K-Pop and K-Drama. And considering the similarity and physical resemblance to the Koreans, it works. This factor is another reason for the sense of connectedness to the Koreans. Hair color and haircuts are often inspired by the K-pop idols. K-Beauty is also very popular for their skincare routines and glass like skin globally. Korean concept stores like KIODA, MUMUSO, and XIMI VOGUE etc. are also open in the capital city of the state.

However, the fans of K-Pop and K-Dramas are often seen as obsessive ones, often considered obsessed with Korean culture so much that they denounce their own culture and think or call themselves Korean. This is where Koreaboo comes in, which means a non-South Korean person who is obsessed with South Korean culture specially K-Pop or K-Dramas. This is one of the negative influences of the Hallyu Wave. These obsessive natures often result in the negligence of their studies. Teens over-spend time watching K-pop and K-drama, assumes everything in Korea is perfect as seen in it. This doesn’t speak for all the fans but in general it is so. They can suffer from physical, mental and psychological problem because of heavy K-Pop and K-Drama addiction.

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Everything comes with positive and negative consequences. We should also not overlook the positive consequences. K-Pop idols have huge global popularity and some of them are also known for great philanthropy. They aren’t just popular because of their good looks or how good they sing and dance. Their music reaches people’s heart with strong social messages on mental health, injustice, dreams and more. One strong message from them, and their fans are ready to support and act upon it. Their music comforts millions of their fans.

Fans of K-Pop idols especially BTS, known as BTS ARMY, are active in charity works in the name of their idols. This fandom culture and participatory fandom phenomenon has raised million dollars for many important issues. Recently, Indian fans of BTS raised 5.9 Lakhs in a single day for the Assam Flood Relief. BTS fans of Manipur have also raise money on account of BTS members’ birthdays and donated to the needy ones.

We can learn a lot from South Korean culture and other different cultures from around the world. In this dynamic globalized world where media consumption is almost essential for one’s daily life, acculturation is bound to happen at one point or another. Change is inevitable.

~ Hemam Windy ~

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