Korean Popular Culture and It’s Influence in India

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Popular culture is something that keeps on changing from time to time. Every one of us have a different understanding of the term popular culture. Scholars and ordinary men both have a tremendous confusion over the term and its definition.

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Since 1980s historians of the neo-Marxist cultural school of thought believes popular culture is the study of post-industrial commercial phenomenon. Stuart Hall broadly classifies popular culture as a phenomenon that grew 1880 onwards. Mostly it is believed that following the technological breakthrough in 1920s and the launch of the radio system, millions of people were listening to music over radio and even were buying records. Thereafter since 1930s the music bands became an integral part of the western popular culture. Around 1970s the Hip-hop culture spread over parts of New York. So, popular culture is an umbrella term that originated in a western society.

To keep it simple popular culture in modern days can be broadly defined as a set of beliefs, practices and cultural phenomenon that are dominant in any society during a certain period. Although the concept and term originated in the west but due to various factors it spread over the world. Popular culture is quite vast since there are local pop-cultures of every region or country and now there is a development of pop-music and hip-hop culture around the globe (that is of western origin). In this regard it is important to note what Anny Bennet says, that rock represents one of the many ‘neo-tribes’ that make up contemporary youth culture. That include hip-hop, house music, bhangra, teen pop and so on. Just to dig in a little deeper we can talk about Will Straw who said ‘Heartland Rock’ has eclipsed. ‘eartland Rock’ is a kind of guitar-based music of the 1960s.Therefore we can easily understand popular culture is a process that evolves with time and space.

Tony Bennett considers: The concept of popular culture is virtually useless, a melting pot of confused and contradictory meanings capable of misdirecting inquiry up any number of theoretical blind alleys. There is no proper or static definition of popular culture and hence Holt N. Parker describes it as pornography since according to him ‘we may not be able to define it, but we know it when we see it.’

The purpose of this paper although is not to look for definitions of popular culture rather to talk about the Korean popular culture at large and how it has influenced Indian people. To a limited extent, the influence of Indian popular culture such as ‘Bollywood’ in Korea shall also be discussed based on the survey that has been conducted to give a real assumption of Indo-Korean cultural influences. The Korean culture is quite similar in many ways with that of India. The countries were connected since 4th C.E. and the bedrock of the relationship was Buddhism. The two countries were also connected through indirect trade routes such as the well-known Silk Route. Moreover, ancient Korean marriage rituals were similar to that of Indian marriage rituals. At a time when the conservative countries like that of Taliban in Afghanistan and the Hindu nationalist in India wanted to shift back to the so called ‘golden old days’, the Asian Tiger Economies looked forward for new arenas to make a come back from the economic and social crisis. So much so the government helped the media and cultural industry to flourish and the results are visible in the present when even Indian population is demanding Korean bands like BTS to perform in India and watching Korean dramas extensively. The Koreans modelled their media industry in the format of Hollywood and taking it to its zenith that would not have been possible if the State did not help the industry. The Korean wave popularly called as Hallyu is the beginning of a new era of k-pop culture.

To talk about the influence of k-pop culture in India, we should take a note that Manipur have a close connection with the Korean culture since over a decade. It is largely because in September 2000 the RPF (Revolutionary People’s Front) banned Bollywood movies and songs in Manipur. Thus, the pirated versions of Korean drama and music flowed into the region and to such an extent that every household watched Korean movies. The popularity of Korean culture in the north-east soon led the local TV channels to air Korean dramas and music shows. Two such examples of local channels are Arirang TV and KBS and in 2008 the very first Indo-Korea music festival also took place in Nagaland. Therefore, we can surely say the Korean influence is increasing in India not only in the north east but to other regions as well such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, etc. This is because when the youngsters travel to other parts of the country they carry the Korean culture along with them. Further a fact that Chennai hosts the maximum number of Koreans in India resembles a close interaction between the two Nations and thereby its cultures.

Jeongmee Kim considers the success of the Korean wave in the parts of Asia at large because of the scenes of love and intimacy are portrayed with playfulness and innocence. On the other hand the author believes Korean popular culture could attract a larger audience because of its inclusive nature among the youth. A news report states apart from the cultural affinity, there is the refreshingly different content. Korean TV dramas are not about scheming mothers-in-laws. This difference in themes can be another good reason for the growth of Korean audience in India.

Moving on, classical music of any country is the opposite of a popular culture. India is known world wide for its classical dances and music. Though it is gaining popularity but it cannot accommodate all due to its rigid nature. While, it is largely seen as a form of worship, the popular music or say Korean hip-hop dance does not bind anybody to strict rules. One does not have to know the nine Rasas, mudras or the different ragas to enjoy the popular culture. Hence, the outcome of such exclusiveness is the youth accepting Korean popular culture happily along with Bollywood culture. So much so at times there takes place an exchange of ideas and culture between the two and that is how the peppy numbers come into the market which shall be discussed further towards the end.

Pleasure study is a recent phenomenon. So far, we have focussed more on the artist and no other attributes like how it connects peoples’ heart and soul. Music aims to become a ‘total sameness’ throughout the world. It is a melody that can cross boundaries easily. Kalika Prasad Tiwari also talks about the ‘Ananda’ aspect that means pleasure seeking is the sole motivation of popular culture like the classical culture. One big reason for the spread of popular culture in general is globalization. Paul Gilroy in 1993 emphasizes that popular music can no longer be contained with in a single national tradition. It is interesting to note here that two important elements of pop-music are ‘reggae and rap’ which can forge easily with the trans local diasporic communities. Paul says it is about the movement of peoples than the globalization of music itself.

RISING OF K-POP IN INDIA

In the recent years we can see a rise in the k-pop culture in India. More and more people are getting aware of Korean culture. One of the major contributors is the media. It is through specific media channels that Korean culture in India is spreading. To justify the above point let us investigate a couple of news articles and study the survey that has been conducted to trace the growth of Korean popular culture in India. Prof Sanjay Kumar in his article Incredible India and Inspiring Korea in 21st Century talks about how subtitles have made it easy for viewers worldwide to understand Korean songs and dramas. We should consider the point that popular culture includes movies, literature and other forms of art and not just music and dance. Sanjay Kumar who is a research professor in the republic of Korea although explains the growth of popular culture mostly in Philippines and other Asian countries excluding India but the point he made is quite relevant for India as well. Subtitles have made it possible to understand and enjoy Korean shows as equal to Bollywood and other regional cultural shows. Times of India in 2012 came out with an article that describes about the Korean wave through the youth’s perspective (including teenagers). According to the article, Korean wave is a term that was coined in mid-1999 and teenagers in the modern day are followers of Korean superstars like Jinyoung and Minwoo. In an article in YOUTH KI AWAZ, Rhythm Sachdeva gives explanation about the popularity of Korean drama and culture in India. She says In my humble opinion, showcasing of Korean dramas will bolster the sense of brotherhood. It will act as a catalyst in breaking myths of people about the north easterners where Korean fashion and culture is prevalent. Thus, it will prove to be a humongous step in abolishing racism in India. Sheila Kumar an enthusiastic research journalist wrote an article wherein she describes a growth of serious fans or followers of Korean artists in India who even dress like them. The popularity of Korean language classes and food have also increased due to such adaptation of culture by a substantial number of Indian youth. It is through a survey again the author brings in light the popularity of pop culture in India is on the rise unlike before. A comment worth noting made by one of her interviewers who is a high school student goes like they don’t show anything negative because children my age or younger will be watching them. This shows the unique feature of Korean dramas. Her article also laid emphasis on the role of media and television including internet that has geared the communication and created a platform for exchange of a culture worldwide. Moreover, if we look closely the influence of k-pop culture has created a business platform. For example, the food industry that include restaurants and cafes. There are several restaurants which serve Korean food, play Korean popular music and follow Korean customs across India. All of it is nothing but influence of Korean culture.

A very recent article published in 2017 explains Indian version of Rolling Stone’s interview with South Korean band called BTS and how the overwhelming response resulted in a server crash. People took their messages to twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms letting the world know about their likes. Right after this event on 16th September,2017 channel VH1 launched K-Popp’d dedicated to only k-pop music for the very first time. Army of immortals- a group of boys from the north east won the hip-hop dance competition in the K-pop world festival held in south-Korea further taking this culture forward in India. The article states the reason behind the fan base in a non-Korean speaking country is because of South-Korea’s foreign policy, a local radical left-wing insurgency and the rise of social media.

The key factor that abets the popularity of Korean Wave is the cultural proximity of Korean and Manipuri societies, says a 2008 paper, written by research scholars Dr Otojit Kshetrimayum and Ningombam Victoria Chanu, referring to ethnic and cultural links between the region and China and South-East Asia. So much so that it is not difficult to find fans imitating similar dressing and hair styles in the north-east region of our country. It seems 2017 onwards the popularity of Korean culture is rising at a faster pace in India. ‘Hindu’ suggests it was the airing of DOTS (Descendants of the Sun) on Zee Zindagi channel that led to a gradual growth of Indian audience. Archana Anand told Hindu about the unit being sceptical launching Korean shows but the overwhelming response made them introduce more such shows. Not only this, requests came in from Indian audience for Korean bands to perform in India. In the top of the list was BTS followed by several others who are equally famous like EXO and EXID.

CONCLUSION

A survey was conducted specially to come to a conclusion regarding the influence of Korean culture in India (Indian people were asked to fill out the forms and total responses got are 60). A couple of Korean people have been interviewed who reside in the Christ campus in order to get some information about the spread of Bollywood culture in Korea. To begin with,73.3% of the total number of people whose response have been collected through google forms have heard about the term popular culture in general and a number of definitions came out about popular culture. They all agree that it is the culture of the mass. The way of living – dressing style, food habits, slangs, songs, music, dance drama – all of these of the common people. More than 50 percent of the people are familiar with Korean popular culture and more than 40% of them hear Korean listen to Korean music and another 18.3% are interested. If we combine people who think and people who are confirmed that Bollywood also have used similar techniques or rhythm in making its songs then it goes up as high as 80%. It seems Korean drama is also quite popular in India since 46.7% of the people who responded have replied with a yes and 13.3% are interested in watching them. Names apart from BTS band that came out in the process from the survey are EXO, BOA, Yin, Big Bang, 2NE1, Shinee, Lee Min-ho, Park Jimim, Soong Joon ki, etc. Most people are aware of the hip-hop culture of Korea as well. Through the survey it is also confirmed that one can easily enjoy music without understanding the language. Last but not the least 93.3% of the people responded that they have heard and danced to ‘Gangnam Style’ song which of course a Korean production. While we can see Korean popular culture has a considerable influence in India in respect to that Indian culture is not that popular in Korea although Choe Hyeon a Korean student studying masters in Christ college (registration id:1947222), main campus replied ‘Three Idiots and Dangal and Indian curry are quite popular in Korea.’

Therefore, to conclude culture is fluid and does not abide by the physical boundary of the states. If we talk about Indo-Korea relationship then definitely the two countries are coming closer with the passage of time – accepting, adopting and appreciating each other’s cultures.

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