January 31, 2008

This article was featured in The Strait's Times 2 days back. The author has a rather interesting take on the Hallyu phenomenon sweeping the world today. Guess my efforts in spreading the Hallyu wave in Singapore is paying off.

Be patient, the article is kinda long. :)

KOREAN DRAMA SERIALS - Sappily ever after
By Andy Ho

IF YOU live in Woodlands, you can catch up to about six hours of Korean TV serials daily - half on our Channel U and half on Malaysian free-to-air broadcasts.

Singapore and Malaysia aside, many other Asian nations have been bowled over by the Korean Wave, that fad for South Korean popular culture. These include China, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines,
Thailand and Vietnam. Even Mongolia and Uzbekistan are enthralled.

Building presumably on this 'kim chic' called Hallyu in Korean, Hanryu in Japanese and Hanliu in Mandarin, the Asian Civilisations Museum is now planning a Korean- themed exhibition.

But it was not always so. In Singapore, for example, many older people remember Koreans as those men who came to work on our huge infrastructure projects of the 1970s and 1980s. And the media portrayed South Korea as a nation shot through with political and industrial unrest.

For generations, the Western media had a stereotype of Koreans which an American academic, who specialises in Korean matters but asked not to be named, described thus: 'If we liken Japanese to
Germans - coldly efficient - then Koreans are to French - systematic folk who can also, at the drop of a hat, become all emotional and unruly.'

But Hallyu is changing this mindset, in Asia at least. Many now see Korea as a country of technological advancement, urban elegance and physically attractive people too. A Korea Trade Centre survey in 2005 showed that people in China and Japan perceived the country in very favourable terms.

But the Korean Wave is of recent onset. Korean trade statistics show that it was only in 2002 that exports of its TV content overtook imports of foreign productions for the first time. Most of these exports - with soap operas making up three-quarters of them - go to East and South-east Asia.

Dr Shim Doobo, until recently of the National University of Singapore, has noted that there was no mention of Korean cinema in the 1996 Oxford History of World Cinema, which claimed to cover 'every aspect of international film-making'.

Kim chic evolution

HOW did this 'kim chic' wave of Korean telenovelas come about then?

The genres are quite limited, the theme almost invariably undying love between a wealthy, handsome hunk and a gorgeous, asexually virginal female from a less privileged background. These forever young hunks are unconditionally devoted to their one woman, who is perpetually perfect, without a strand of hair out of place or eye bags after a sleepless night of tears.

Popular analyses tend to point to the dazzling brilliance of Korean cityscapes, luxurious houses, breathtaking countryside vistas but, above all, the stunning actors and actresses.

In fact, the leading stars have near-perfect faces and bodies, which some attribute to the reconstructive prowess of Korean plastic surgeons: The eyes are given double epicanthic folds, noses lifted higher, teeth bleached white and straightened, skin chemically peeled a shade
fairer and hair dyed brown.

Never mind that so much pain is inflicted on the Asian body to write the West on it, for this is but a creative marriage of East and West.

In fact, impressionistic analyses of Hallyu's ascendancy point precisely to how natural it is for Confucianist cultures to admire the allegedly creative marriage of West and East in Korean culture, which is portrayed as clearly modern but ethically traditional: Ancient Confucianist matriculation ceremonies meld seamlessly with Westernised college campuses, hanbok-clad women drive around in cars, while theme songs drift from Korean to English and back again effortlessly.

So, Koreans show us how we can be cultural collaborators yet maintain an unsullied Confucianist
essence - focus on the family, respect for our elders, preference for male offspring, self-sacrifice by the men and subservience by the women. They show us how to hold on to our putative traditions while sporting fetishised Western looks.

While Hollywood flaunts gratuitous sex and gore and its extravagance may seem distant, it is said that Korean productions show how Asians can enjoy the brilliance of capitalist materialism in real/reel life while staying true to their roots.

Of course, all this may be just fantasy as Dr Shim's 2006 study of Korean women residing in Singapore affirmed. (The Korean Association in Singapore says there are 7,000 to 8,000 Koreans

But the Korean women still drank it all in - and if they believed it, it must be pretty credible to their Chinese cultural cousins as well. (Women are the mainstay of Hallyu fans).

Yet if this cultural proximity argument - that Korean telenovelas touch the right chord of
Confucianist sentiment - explains it all, why does our own fare on Channel 8 attract so few eyeballs? For that matter, how many Malays here prefer the dubbed-in-Malay-Filipino dramas on Suria to, say, the US hit series Heroes, or CSI?

Clearly, as symbolic messages, TV dramas present different meanings to different audiences, so what you think is culturally close to you may not be so for me, even if we are of the same race or religion. Perhaps, the forces of supply and demand might matter more to 'kim chic' than popularly

First, the demand side. An importing nation may have achieved a certain level of economic development and thus a better quality of life, but if its cultural development lags behind, its people may look for an 'alternative' culture - like Korean or Japanese culture - as a stop gap.

This is the explanation proferred by economists who have shown empirically that the domestic market size - population and earning power - determines the quantity and quality of a nation's media products. They have shown that those made for larger and more developed markets sell better across borders to markets that are at a lower level of economic, cultural, and political development.

Thus Japanese TV fare was already a staple in Taiwan and Hong Kong, before Hallyu appeared on the scene.

But technological, political and institutional barriers might make it difficult for people to get their hands on such cultural products, so timing also matters. In the mid-1990s, media liberalisation in many Asian nations saw the number of free-to-air and cable TV stations in the region mushroom, so there was a heightened demand for new programming.

But even as Chinese and Vietnamese TV stations, especially, were sourcing for more programming, the prices of Japanese fare were escalating, so they turned to Korean telenovelas, whose quality was perceived to be almost on par with the Japanese but were four to six times cheaper. They also portrayed more conservative social views than Japanese or American fare.

Chaebols do national service

NOW for the supply side. Official figures show that TV dramas produced by its public broadcasters (KBS, MBC, and SBS) make up two-thirds of all Korean media exports, a direct outcome of an initiative that began in 1994 to make media a strategic industry: The Cultural Industry Bureau was set up in 1994 and the Motion Picture Promotion Law passed in 1995 to encourage chaebols to invest in the entertainment industry as their patriotic duty to raise exports.

Samsung, Hyundai and Daewoo answered the call, but their involvement ended not long after the International Monetary Fund mandated their restructuring in the wake of the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

Still, chaebol involvement injected much needed management innovation such as market research, cutting edge technology as well as better scripts and editing. Graduates from the best universities, who would previously have opted for lifelong employment in manufacturing, were attracted to the
industry too.

Because the financial crisis led to a drop in imports of foreign TV shows, there was a demand for more local fare. So after the chaebols exited the media scene, venture capitalists entered. Compared to just eight in the late 1980s, there are now more than 300 independent setups that produce TV dramas at lower costs than public broadcasters, whose programming has improved due to intense competition.

And the government continues to be involved. In 2005, it began setting up 15 cultural centres in Asia, South America and Eastern Europe to promote Hallyu at a cost of 100 billion won (S$150 million).

An interesting wrinkle in this supply chain is that Korean dramas are reprocessed before onsumption: Many are dubbed in Taiwan, where rewrites and improvisations in the dialogue take place in an effort to localise content. This means that Hallyu experienced in Singapore is actually filtered through Taiwanese eyes, so there might be something to the cultural thesis after all - albeit in a more nuanced way.

In a globalising East Asia, where traditional gender roles are being challenged, women may project their desires onto the actresses. These are seen as supportive of, yet at the same time, subservient to their brutish men, who can magically become transformed into caring lovers.

Hallyu's male leads routinely actually shove the women they love about. They unhesitatingly drag them about roughly by the hand - through crowds in train stations, church weddings or corporate parties - before plonking them down unceremoniously in their predestined place, that of the matrimonial throne, in the finale's overture to unreality.

That such (wo)manhandling actually ends happily defies logic, so it all works perhaps because it reassures audiences, women included, that a well-meaning patriarchy is still possible in a post modern world, where the secure past is fast fading but the insecure future cannot yet be grasped.

This yearning may well be the stuff that pan-Asian dreams are made of.

January 30, 2008

Hong Gil Dong, The Hero

(Image Source: KBS)

Korean drama meant one thing for me and Mydaemon in the last 18 weeks. . . Jumong

This monster of a drama, at 81 episodes, finally ended its run last Friday. While I enjoyed the rich elaborate sets, costumes and a well developed story, Jumong became kind of a chore to watch as the scriptwriters lost their way for the last 20 odd episodes. In my opinion, it was a poor end to a wonderful drama. Only good news is that the end of Jumong meant 'free' time to watch other Korean dramas. :)

The timing can't be more perfect as Hong Gil Dong, The Hero started its run on KBS World (on Singapore's Starhub's CableVision Channel 100) last Thurs morning at 3am. As a self-confessed Sung Yu Ri fan, I what all fans did. I set up the recorder to tape the first episode of Hong Gil Dong. C'mon, you don't seriously expect me to stay awake till 3am to catch a Korean drama.

Well, did you?

Anyway, having viewed both episode 1 and 2 (KBS World screens the drama on Wed and Thurs nights) over the last weekend, I now understand what the critics meant when they described the jokes in Hong Gil Dong as those of the "bathroom humour" sort and how Sung Yu Ri broke out of her stereotyped roles seen in The Snow Queen and One Fine Day.

Take cover! Hong Gil Dong is coming!
(Image Soucrce: KBS)

With his trademark mischevious twinkle in the eye and that cheeky smile, it is no wonder that Kang Ji Hwan was chosen to take on the role of a town bull and public enemy No. 1 - Hong Gil Dong. His face alone, with those rose tinted glasses, is already worth a laugh.

The charming Sung trying to charm a snake.
(Image Soucrce: KBS)

For Sung Yu Ri, her portrayal of Heo Yi Nok, the money minded, clumsy, yet kind side-kick to Hong Gil Dong has indeed helped her breakout of the soppy, sad, but beautiful girl roles which she did in her previous drama series. In Hong Gil Dong, Sung trades her now famous stereotypical 'cool' persona for one which does some outrageous mad-cap actions which included a scene where she does her 'big' business in a field while singing to ease the passage of her ehem, waste.

The drama was so funny that there was rarely a moment when me and Mydaemon were not laughing away. I am really looking forward to the rest of the series.

January 24, 2008

Seeing stars in Orchard Road

Mydaemon and I was doing some Lunar New Year (Yippee!) shopping in Wisma Atrium, located along Singapore's most famous shopping belt - Orchard Road, when Mydaemon suddenly stopped in mid-stride, held my arm, which stopped me in my tracks, and pointed to a huge advertisement display.

"Do you know who's that?" she asked.

Staring back at me with large beautiful eyes was the face of a glamourous looking face featured on a huge Laneige ad. The face looked kind of familiar but I was scratching my head and trying very hard to place a name to that pretty face.

"Er, dunno?" was my answer.

Mydaemon gave me an incredulous look of disbelief and wondered out loud...

"How could you claim to be a fan of Korean entertainment and write in HelloHallyu when you can't even identify Jeon Ji Hyeon!"

Taking a closer look, it indeed was Jeon Ji Hyun's beautiful face on the ad. Ok, that was indeed embarassing.

Well, sometimes women do know best, especially when they are your wives. Anyway, just read somewhere that Song Hye Gyo has just replaced Jeon Ji Hyeon as the model for Laneige. Now, Song's face is definitely one which I will not get wrong.

Well, that's until proven wrong again by my wife. :P

And here's the ad.

Photo by Teddy

January 22, 2008

Beauty & The Beast

Yoo Ha Joon. The 'beastly' step-brother in One Fine Day who became Sung's real-life prince.
(Image Source: HanCinema)

I nearly fell off my chair when I read in Popseoul that Sung Yu Ri's boyfriend is none other than Yoo Ha Joon who co-starred as her obsessive and somewhat perverted step-brother in the K-drama One Fine Day. I am kind of disappointed that it's not Gong Yoo since he starred in the drama too.

I believe only hardcore Sung Yu Ri and Gong Yoo fans would have seen the drama since One Fine Day is a rather disappointing attempt at rehashing the brother/sisterly love story first seen in Autumn in My Heart.

I am not trying to be disrespectful to Sung's boyfriend since I am a fan of hers. But putting them side by side really reminds me of the classic term"Beauty and the Beast". Guess I need not spell out who's the beauty and who's the beast. Then again, I am sure there are fans out there who would gladly challenge my definition.

While it is hard to exorcise the not-so-nice images of Yoo's character in One Fine Day, I am still happy for Sung Yu Ri to have found her love.

January 21, 2008

Hallyu wave hits Singapore airwaves

Local newspaper Today reported on 18 Jan that starting from Feb 1 2008, Korean programming will be available on Mediacorp's Radio's FM96.3 The International Channel from Monday to Friday between 9pm to 11pm.

"The programme will include contemporary K-pop music, news updates from South Korea and, for Korean expats based here (in Singapore), useful tips on living in Singapore. Lee An, a South Korean singer for whom Singapore is the launching pad of his regional music career, also performed at the signing ceremony."

For me, this is a perfectly good reason to tune in to the radio in the evening. Not only can I read the latest news on Korean entertainment in the web, I can now tune in to the latest music and information on Korea.


Source Article:
Today, Riding the K-Wave

January 14, 2008

In Pictures - Gong Yoo enters the army

Some photos of Gong Yoo in his crewcut hairdo as he enlists for the army. Here's wishing him all the best in his new vocation. We at HelloHallyu are looking forward to his release and hopefully more dramas from this hunk when he's back with us in 2010!!!

(Photos: chosun.com)

Related Posts
First Post for 2008

K-Pop - 20 Trends Sweeping the Globe

Forbes has identified Korean pop entertainment as one of the top 20 trends sweeping the globe today. Looks like the Hallyu wave is still making waves around the world!

Here's what Forbes have to say about the K-Pop trend.

"Hear that? The Hallyu wave is coming!" The world's grooving to the tune of the Korean Rain dance.
(Image source: Paul McConnell/Getty Images)

Groove To Korean Pop
Korean pop music has made waves across Asia for years, with homegrown stars selling out shows from Kyoto to Kuala Lumpur. But the scene, rife with over-produced starlets and goody-two-shoes boy bands, has been a little saccharine for Western tastes. That's changing, with indie bands finally catching a break and hip-hoppers like Eun Ji Won toying with with Latin fusion for a truly original sound. K-pop star and actor Rain (real name Jung Ji-hoon) will make his Hollywood debut this year, with a role in Speed Racer, directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski, creators of The Matrix.

January 9, 2008

My Sassy Girl going to US and Japan

(Image source: HanCinema)

My Sassy Girl was a definitive Korean movie for me since it was one of the first Korean movies to have left a deep imprint on me. Who can forget the beautiful OST which included the timeless Pachelbel's Canon and its memorable main theme "I Believe".

Music aside, the well scripted romantic comedy movie also catapulted Jeon Ji Hyeon and Cha Tae Hyun to instant stardom commanding hordes of fans around the world. I still have vivid memories of how Cha met Jeon at the underground transit. Scenes of Jeon and Cha shouting to each other across the mountain range, the time capsule and all the hilarious moments, such as the 'slapping' game (see picture above) on the train, are still vivid in my mind.

After the movie success in 2001, we will see it's drama (Japanese) and movie (US) adaption of this timeless tale in 2008. In the Japanese drama, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, of SMAP, will take on Cha's role as the lovable Gyeon Woo, while Lena Tanaka will take on Jeon's role as "The Girl", for her name was never mentioned in the original movie.

The Gals: Jeon Ji Hyeon and her wannabes Lena Tanaka and Elisha Cuthbert. I still think Jeon comes up tops in the X-factor compartment by miles.

The Guys: Cha Tae Hyun and his wannabes Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and Jesse Bradford. Doubt anyone can replicate that sweet goofy trademark smile of Cha.

For the American movie adaptation, filming has already been completed and is awaiting its debut in the US market. The movie stars Jesse Bradford in Cha's role while Elisha Cuthbert will be "The Girl".

January 7, 2008

KBS found a winner in Hong Gil Dong

(Image Source: chosun.com)

The latest KBS drama offering Hong Gil Dong seems to have struck the right note with audiences in Korea. Going by the various reviews and comments made in the Korean media, I gather that Hong Gil Dong is doing well in the ratings war with dramas by the rival networks.

Debuting on KBS 2 last Wednesday, words like "young and fresh" were used to described the drama. According to The Korea Herald, "this new take on the traditional historical drama presents the most unlikely mix of global pop culture references to ever hit TV screens".
"From Hong Kong action stunts to Bollywood belly dancing to a touch of Shakespearean stage humor, this drama gives the classic story of one of Korea`s most popular heroes, Hong Gil-dong, a radical makeover."

You know that this drama must be that good to garner such positive comments. Frankly, having watched a couple of Bollywood movies, I know the producers of Hong Gil Dong must have done a lot of homework if Sung Yu Ri is to look good and natural doing belly dancing around a coconut tree. That's a fantasy of mine, not sure if Sung Yu Ri actually did such a scene in the drama.

But I know that she did this. . .
" . . . Sung Yu-ri, a former member of the hit girl-group Fin.K.L., turns bathroom humor into an art in her role as the boyish heroine Heo Lee-nok. In the second episode, Sung, 26, defecates in the wilderness, to put it nicely. From her singing while she does her business to her delicate selection of the right leaf to use as toilet paper, Sung pulls off the scene with perfect comic timing."

Reading it already sounds hilarious! I would like to see how the icy snow queen turns into a bathroom humour queen in this drama.

Now, I just have to wait another 1 - 2 weeks before it hit the screens on KBS World.

Life's good in 2008.

Releated Posts:
Pictures - Hong Gil Dong
Sung Yu Ri's New Drama - Hong Gil Dong

Source Article:
The Korea Herald, New KBS Drama takes fusion to extremes (link leads to main page as there's no article specific link)

Apologies to all readers

I would like to sincerely apologise to all readers who came here and was re-directed to a 'fake' looking 'advertlets.com' website over the weekend. Did not realise that Hellohallyu was 'hijacked' over the weekend and had the shock of my life last night when I logged on only to be directed to what I would call a high suspicious 'phishing'-looking website.

Managed to trace the problem to troubles at the web advertising company advertlets.com (aka the culprit). Removed the offending html code and the problem was solved. You can now safely surf HelloHallyu without any fear of being re-directed to some strange looking website.

We at HelloHallyu will never do such a thing cause we are internet users ourselves and we know how irksome it is to close those pop-up windows and being re-directed to dubious websites while innocently surfing the net.

For those interested, here's the apology from advertlets.com. I find it hard to believe that a legitimate company did such a thing. They should have at least disabled their html code or something like that. Frankly, all my faith in this Malaysian dot.com company is all but gone. Think I will review for some time before even considering putting up their ads again.

Once again, apologies to all affected readers.

January 4, 2008

In Pictures: Yoon Eun Hye in Taiwan

Taiwanese ushered in 2008 with a bang when Yoon Eun Hye dropped by Taipei to promote her latest drama - The First Shop of Coffee Prince.

YEH should have dropped by Singapore since we are the first country in Asia to broadcast Coffee Prince on the free-to-air channel Channel U. For those who can receive TV signals from Singapore, the drama is screening from 10-11pm every weekday.

Anyway, don't you think YEH just look gorgeous below? Aja!

(Photos: chosun.com)

January 2, 2008

First post for 2008

Everyone loves to kick off the new year with a bang. Well, I did and I had 2 home delivered pizzas to kick it off with on New Year's Eve!

Each new year is a special period for me as I spend a moment to reflect about the what have I done with my life in the previous year. 2007 was a special one since it was the year which started me off with my obsession, I call it love, for Korean drama, its food and culture.

While Hellohallyu is sort of my hobby blog, I have grown to look forward to each opportunity to serve up the latest news, which must interest me first, to all Hallyu fans out there.

I have only one simple resolution for Hellohallyu this year. And that's to continue updating this blog as regularly and humanely possible. Believe me, it's really no easy task managing a full-time job and maintaining this blog. I do hope that you have enjoyed what I have dished out thus far.

And here's the real post for the day. . .

As the buzz of the holidays recede and all of us goes back to our routine, some Hallyu stars will be drafted into the Korean military for their compulsory military service. In 12 days time (on 14 Jan 2008), our very own Coffee Prince Gong Yoo will be enlisted to serve the Korean military.

I will leave you here with his acceptance speech when he received the Male Excellence Award at the MBC Drama Awards 2007. The speech was translated by soompi member allhl.

"Today my outfit is in military green colour, I think in future I will be mainly wearing this colour. Since I first started acting, maybe because I am a bit arrogant, I never thought of winning an award like this but now that I am holding this award in reality, I am really happy. My parents are also watching this awards ceremony at home, my mom who still looks like a young girl, actually after CP, my dad who gave me a lot of autographed editions (NB: literal translation - not sure what this is saying), my CP family, my fans club who has always been supporting me all along, also all those who love me, thank you to all of you! I love you all! I hope everyone can continue to be healthy and happy! PD actually hoped that Yeh and I will win the best couple award, I feel disappointed that we did not win ... Before I enter MS, this is the last time I will appear before your TV screen, on January 14 next year I will enter the army training service for military training. I will enter the military with full spirit! When I am in MS, please do not forget me!"

After his fantastic performance in The First Shop of the Coffee Prince, Gong Yoo will definitely be sorely missed. But rest assured that we here at HelloHallyu will never forget him. Actually, I am already looking forward to the future post to announce his return to showbiz when he's discharged from military service. So watch this space!