How is Hong Kong embracing Hallyu, the Korean wave?

The rise of K-pop, like BTS, and the global popularity of “Squid Game" undoubtedly reflects the Korean wave, or “Hallyu” that is spreading worldwide.

How is Hong Kong embracing Hallyu, the Korean wave?
Souce: Netflix

The rise of K-pop, like BTS, and the global popularity of “Squid Game" undoubtedly reflects the Korean wave, or “Hallyu” that is spreading worldwide. Sweeping over Hong Kong as well, the domination of K-pop on Hong Kong music charts and K-dramas in Netflix rankings continuously builds and sustains the popularity of South Korean culture. Along with the initial wave of K-pop and K-dramas, Korean movies, foods and fashion have also joined the bandwagon of praise and demand, not just in Hong Kong, but globally.

In Korea, it’s already known that many YouTube videos of K-pop groups or shows are plastered with foreign comments at the top, making it difficult to find Korean comments. Some Koreans find it uncomfortable, with users searching for other Korean comments. Others are simply surprised, recognizing the immense popularity of Korean entertainment overseas. With this Korean wave, local Koreans in Hong Kong can also have more confidence in being easily identified as South Korean, without being asked the tired old question, “Are you from South or North Korea?”

In Hong Kong, it’s pretty common that local students are more up-to-date with the current K-pop industry than even Koreans themselves. Furthermore, there are streets of Korean restaurants and bars packed with people, like in Tsim Sha Tsui, extrapolating from the strong foundation of K-pop and K-dramas in the spread of Korean culture.

The Korean wave is almost hard to miss in Hong Kong nowadays, the imminent effects of globalization being obvious, pushing people into a “realm” of South Korea. It’s safe to say that, whether you love it or not, you’re bound to be familiar with some aspect of Korean culture.

The rise of K-pop

From the first generation, including groups like Big Bang, Girl’s Generation and 2NE1, to current groups like BTS, Seventeen, Twice and many more, K-pop has been garnering global attention throughout the past decade. With BTS paving the way for a steep incline in attention and popularity, both Korean music and fandom culture has been seeping into Hong Kong.

The basic culture of being a fan is joining the fandom itself, usually by paying a subscription fee to get exclusive benefits and announcements regarding the group. However, even if you aren’t part of the official fandom, there are so many other ways fans support their favorite K-pop group. Fan chants, birthday cafe events, advertisement posters on birthdays and V Lives, a livestreaming app dedicated for idols to communicate with fans – these are just a few ways fans participate to show their love and support.

Although most of these activities are conducted online nowadays, birthday cafe events have been alive and well in Hong Kong. A birthday cafe event dedicates a cafe to a particular Korean idol during the week of his or her birthday, decorating both the cafe and drinks with pictures and music. Enamored with photos of their favorite idol, fans flock to these cafes to take photos and savor the birthday celebration.

Subtitles for everyone

After the popularity of “Squid Game,” 26 words related to Korea or originating from Korea have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Sharon Choi, the translator for the Academy Award-winning film director Bong Joon-ho, went viral for her accurate and witty translation at the Oscars. “Learn to read Korean in 5 minutes (seriously)” has collected 21 million views on YouTube, showing the widespread interest in learning the Korean language amid the spread of Korean culture.

There has been an increasing number of requests for subtitles in mainstream Korean media and smaller outlets like YouTube videos, Instagram posts, and even news. Craving the authentic translation and message of not only influencers and stories but also information related to Korea, interest in the Korean language and culture keeps growing.

Jump on the Korean wave in Hong Kong

Other aspects of Korean culture you can enjoy in Hong Kong include food and fashion. Food stores like Hanyinhong have been multiplying across Hong Kong, providing Korean side dishes (banchan) and original Korean food products. Korean fashion has also emerged, with online and retail stores adding entire Korean fashion and cosmetic sections for customers to browse.

Trailing the initial success of the movie “Parasite,” directed by Bong Joon-ho, there are many upcoming Korean dramas and movies on Netflix you can look forward to if you want to jump on the Korean wave. You can check out “Hellbound” if you enjoy a dark and supernatural genre, “All of Us are Dead,” another renowned Korean zombie drama or a mellow movie like “Tune in for Love.” There are many more available now on Netflix, so make sure to check them out and get in on Hong Kong’s love for Hallyu.

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