The culture of excellence inherent in Korea yet latent for over 2,000 years is coming out of its long seclusion at the turn of the 21st century, on the strength of the country's political and economic stability, triggering Hallyu in its progress across Asia, Latin America and Europe.
That was the gist of what Kang Chul-keun, dean of the Hallyu Academy at Seoul's Chung-Ang University, expressed at a symposium on Daejanggeum at the University of Hawaii's Center for Korean Studies held on Nov. 11 at its Manoa campus.
Hallyu, or the Korean Wave, is a socio-cultural phenomenon that is taking place across Asia - in countries such as China, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam - resulting in those countries having a growing interest in and favorable disposition toward Korean popular culture in the areas of music, television, and cinema.
Currently, the preference for Korean culture has expanded from merely popular culture to Korean lifestyles in general, including gastronomy, fashion and sports. And the rage for the historical drama Dae Jang Geum
, or The Great Janggeum (Jewel in the Palace), constitutes a part of Hallyu.
Analyzing the sensation brought about by Dae Jang Geum
, Kang emphasized that the phenomenon was the result of priceless cultural software handed down from Korean ancestors being grafted onto the hardware capitalizing 21st century science.
The drama, an MBC soap opera series, which set ratings records in Korea in 2003 and 2004, is centered on a woman, Janggeum, who served as head physician to the king during the Joseon Dynasty. In the process of broadcasting, the series provoked new interest in traditional clothing, herbal medicine and Korean court cuisine.
Apparently reflecting the heat of the drama, there was an intense discussion lasting nine hours among the academics invited from Korea, Japan and Taiwan about a variety of interpretations of it. Also on hand at the symposium were actor Im Ho, who played the king, the costume designer and producers of the drama.
Ho-min Sohn, director of the Center for Korean Studies, said in the panel discussion that when he arrived in the University of Hawaii back in 1965, Korea was a strange land, so unfamiliar to the residents here, adding the Hallyu phenomenon has emerged as a stunning revolution indeed.
Hirata Yukie from Japan said that when Winter Sonata
, another Korean TV drama series, was aired in Japan, it was predominantly women who viewed it, but Dae Jang Geum
attracted a significant male viewership. She said Dae Jang Geum
has brought about diversification of Korean dramas in her country.