Korean wave sweeps India with Squid Game, Crash Landing On You, BTS and more

We love their teary soaps and sweet romances, thrillers and intense cinema, their music and increasingly even their food. The ‘K’ way of life is dominated by middle and upper class India, a ‘we love everything in South Korea’ movement led primarily by its small screen entertainment industry that has found the most unlikely devotees here.

There is even a word for this South Korean cultural phenomenon: hallyu.

In February 2020, Parasite director Bong Joon-ho urged viewers to overcome the “one-inch-high subtitle barrier” in his Oscar acceptance speech. Less than two years later, almost as if India was listening to it, the hallyu wave swept through the country through shows such as Crash Landing on You and Vincenzo, music from the boyband BTS and also movies.

The OTT boom brought on by the pandemic brought hallyu 2.0 with it as many Indian watchers went beyond their basic regimen of US, Nordic and Indian broadcasts to experience K-dramas.

Viewing of K-dramas on Netflix in India increased by more than 370% in 2020 compared to 2019, a spokesperson for the OTT platform said.

From the cerebral advocate in search of quality entertainment to the elderly participant of soap operas, the shows have found plenty of fans.

A look at Netflix’s Top 10 category shows the breakthroughs Korean shows have made in India with Lee Jung-jae and Park Hae-soo’s Squid Game and Kim Seon-ho and Shin Min-a-starrer the romantic drama Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha is consistently on the list.

Squid Game, a survival show like The Hunger Games inspired by Korean children’s games, is on its way to becoming the greatest show in Netflix history, Ted Sarandos, co-CEO of Netflix said this week.

Since he started working with Korean filmmakers and talent in 2016, the streamer has presented more than 80 original Korean shows and films to its members around the world and has subscribed to K content in 30 languages, the gate said. -speak.

Kingdom Season 2, It’s Okay to Not Be Okay, and Crash Landing are some of the series that regularly make the Top 10 list on Netflix in India. And over 22 million households have tuned it in for Korean horror TV series Sweet Home

That’s why Hyun Bin and Son Ye-jin from the hugely popular Crash Landing on You, a smooth, smooth romance between a North Korean officer and a South Korean heiress, and actors Song Joong-ki, Park Bo-gum have become big stars in India alongside others like Song Hye-kyo and Bae Suzy.

K-drama fans are also addicted to Rakuten Viki, a streaming service with over 15 million users worldwide.

“It has been an exciting time for us, especially as Rakuten Viki is home to the largest collection of K-drama on any streaming platform,” said Sarah Kim, Senior Vice President of Content Business & Regional GM (Asia) , to PTI in a press release.

“We find that people are hungry for Asian content, especially K-dramas, for its unique storytelling and twists, and because it offers a different production quality compared to American and Western content,” he said. she declared.

The love for all things South Korea is such that many fans overcame the “subtitle barrier” and included Korean words such as “noona et oppa” (older sister and brother), “namja -chingoo ”(boyfriend),“ yoja-chingoo ”(girlfriend) and“ sarang-hae ”(I love you) and many other words and expressions from their daily vocabulary.

Globally, too, the language is making waves with the Oxford English Dictionary which recently added 26 Korean words including K-drama, hallyu and kimbap to the dictionary.

“We are all riding the crest of the Korean wave,” the BBC said, citing OED in a statement.

Closer to home, the Korean Cultural Center India has started three-month online Korean courses and the 1,200 places filled up within two to three minutes of opening for registration, said KCCI director Hwang. Il-yong.

“Creating unique stories from normal, familiar life stories can be the power of K-dramas, and this can be one of the main reasons K content is becoming more and more popular globally. . The stories of normal and ordinary people can be universally accepted without resistance or barriers, ”Hwang said.

To introduce Indians to the world of K-pop, KCCI is also organizing a K-pop competition in India as well as a K-pop academy.

To meet the growing demand, Jawaharlal Nehru University is also organizing a Korean teacher training course as well as a regular subject in collaboration with KCCI.

According to Young-Geul Choi, director of the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) in New Delhi, the popularity of K content exploded during the pandemic, but the first K wave emerged in the northeast in 2000 when teenagers became fascinated. by Korean way of life.

“India is now one of the top countries in terms of the number of streaming and viewing of K-Pop or K-drama content. We often get requests from consumers on our social media sites asking how to visit K-drama filming sites or K-pop exhibition spaces or where to buy official merchandise, ”he said.

Along with entertainment comes culture, lifestyle and fashion influence, which hallyu fans now want to embrace in their lives, Choi said.

Family Man star Priyamani remembers how she went from English, Turkish and Belgian series to Korean series.

She stumbled across The Bride of Habaek, along with Shin Se-kyung and Nam Joo-hyuk, late last year. She found the mystery and fantasy element “cute”, but it was the hit series Descendants of the Sun, starring Song Joong-ki and Song Hye-kyo, that sparked her “love affair” with K-dramas.

“I am a big fan of Song Joong-ki. I don’t have his posters and things like that on my wall but I just admire him. I immediately fell in love with him and the character he played. After Descendants of the Sun, I continued to watch and watch a lot of series. Touchwood, my love is still going strong.

“What I found is that these shows are very relevant. You can identify with the culture and tradition as they are also very family oriented like us (Indians). You can connect to these stories even if it is a fantasy or a romance. Acting is also extremely real, ”the actor said.

Priyamani believes K-drama fans already have cities like Seoul, Busan or Daegu on their travel list.

Many people were already watching these dramas even before the pandemic, added Divya Jaladi, training manager at Guntur.

“The craze has been around for a long time now, but the pandemic has definitely given it a boost. People were bored, there wasn’t a lot of content on the TV channels. K-Dramas are a little different… There is a kind of guilty pleasure in them ”, Jaladi, 37 years old.

Ambitious storylines like a rich man meets a poor woman or storylines set in a fantasy world also help.

“Sometimes you wish for yourself something like this would happen to me. It’s very fantastic and usually doesn’t happen (in real life). Also, you don’t often see very beautiful people on the screen.