For The Love of Everything Korean

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By Asiya Shoaib Ismail

It’s something that started rather reluctantly, really. There was this dread attached to somebody forcing me to sit through a 16-episode Korean drama, just because he found the lead girl adorable. Though I was in fits for the very first episode staring at a highly caked-up lead male who looked too effeminate for any girl’s taste, but oddly the first episode ended at this amazing note that I sat through all the 1-hour-long episodes in 2 sittings. This drama was called Heartstrings (넌 내게 반했어/You’ve Fallen For Me). You-ve-Fallen-For-Me-Heartstrings-youve-fallen-for-me-heartstrings-23591556-1280-1024

Highly caked-up lead (aka Jung YongHwa)

Highly caked-up lead (aka Jung YongHwa)

This was just the start of an immensely severe addiction for everything that is Korean, from the plethora of good music, talented singers and dancers, the well-scripted Korean dramas, as well as the language and the connection I feel to their culture being from Asia, albeit a separate region of the continent.

There is so much talent coming out of that part of the world and I feel as if I am witnessing the rise of a giant in the entertainment industry. It is rather fascinating to explore the global success that many K-pop acts have had in far-flung areas such as South America or the Middle East. Since music does not have any barriers, a great number of people start listening for the good tunes but end up learning the language as well, since it is a rather easy one to pick up due to the limited number of alphabets and phonetic sounds.

My Korean newspapers and workbooks

My Korean newspapers and workbooks

Nevertheless, the icing on my Korean cake has to be the K-pop groups or ‘idol groups’ as they are known by their crazed fans. The variety of music offered under the broad title is immense. From large 9-13 member boy and girl groups like 소녀시대/SNSD (Girls’ Generation) and Super Junior, hip hop groups such as Big Bang and 2NE1, R&B singers like Ailee and HyoRin, as well as rock acts the like of 자우림  (Jaurim), F.T. Island and Gate Flowers. tumblr_static_snsd-beast-snsd-super-junior-32314018-1280-800 2NE1 107

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The writer is self-studying the Korean language and Hangul script at the  moment and possesses a keen interest in learning as much about the Korean culture as is possible.

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22 responses »

  1. Great article for those who don’t know much about the Korean pop culture. Its good to know that people even in Pakistan enjoy listening to music from other parts of the world. Growing up in Kuwait i also saw Arabs and some Turkish friends collecting K-pop stickers and posters. I think Korean movies are the best; so simple and awesome story lines!

  2. Well Jaurim isn’t exactly K-Pop, but I guess that is implied by the last paragraph. It’s true that most people clump all these different genres under K-Pop and then ignore it or make presumptions about it when in actuality it can rival any progressive rock band that America has produced!

    • Well, that’s essentially the point I’m trying to raise here. While we try to compare Jaurim to The Cranberries or Ailee to Beyonce, we have to see how they stand out as themselves, because of their talent and often times leave an impression much stronger than the parallels that are drawn for them with Western artists

  3. I’ve never been a fan of K-Pop myself but have to admit, one of the covers that you forced me to listen to “A whole new World” by Aladin, also (kill me for admitting this) “baby “by a band whose name I have forgotten, I actually enjoyed. They produce great stuff and it was nice to know of how you embarked upon the journey.

  4. Its true, even though Heartstrings is still in the more fluffy-drama range for me, its immensely (re)watchable, with more than enough fluff and drama. I couldn’t get the songs out of my head for over a month, and… well, its still my favourite kdrama to date 😛

    • yes, it had the most brilliant script but I think there are plenty of good K-dramas that we still need to get around to watch just because of the good scripts, good acting, good cinematography and some highly addictive soundtracks

  5. I was never really interested in K-Pop till I sat through an episode of “Heartstrings” with you. It wasn’t what I expected! Hope to watch it again sometime in the future, and perhaps experiment with some music too. Thank you for this insight! Have found a whole new world of culture, music and art to experience. Kudos to you Asiya! 🙂

  6. This informative piece of writing not only captures a concise essence of the Korean entertainment industry, but I think that, more importantly, it is a reflective commentary on how universal the arts can be; even if one doesn’t understand the lyrics from a song in a foreign language, a connection between the artist and the listener is still formed; even though, while watching, for example, a Korean drama, one is constantly going back and forth the subtitles and visuals, the body language of the actors, their manner of speaking, the soundtrack, all become vital components in expression and lets us appreciate these nonverbal languages.
    This also, more often than not, results in a globalization and spreading of culture by virtue of research and exploration, that you have clearly done to an admirable degree. Art then becomes a sort of surreal wire that links a diversity of people to each other regardless of their geographical location, giving us a sense of communication that is beyond words and therefore, in a raw and more human form.
    I myself haven’t yet combed through Korean music or drama, but I can see the impact it has had on you and the development of tolerance and perceptiveness that is a result of just watching an episode of a Korean drama that a friend coaxed you to watch. Your knowledge and insight is commendable. Good for you and thanks for sharing!

  7. Brilliant! Didn’t think I had anything to gain from learning about the Koreans but apparently I have a lot to learn

  8. As much as I may hate to admit it, the Koreans know exactly what they’re doing. It’s quite amazing how they’ve manipulated the globalization processes to their advantage. Pakistan has a lot to learn. Economic exports are one thing, cultural exports completely another. Despite my aversion to the massive influx of Korean content, kudos to them.
    And a great article! Very informative for newbies.

  9. First, I think its a great article for those who are not aware about the Korean entertainment industry.

    Secondly, I must admit that, thanks to the writer and some of my Pakistani and Arab friends, I actually did sit through and watch Heartstrings without fidgeting, lol. Not so much in the music area, but it made me realize how fast the Korean entertainment industry is already on the centre stage! And not just Asians, but specifically and surprisingly among South Asians and the Middle East.

  10. I think the best thing about the Korean Entertainment Industry is that it transcends the language barrier – emotions in the songs, acting everything speaks a language which touches everyones heart. 😀

  11. Nice article! I feel like people who have been through the kpop phase can relate to it. It is really an attraction now a days which engulfs many.

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