Film in South Korea dealt with severe supression after the military coup in 1961 – every script had to go through the Korean CIA to test any pro-communist dogma. Filmmakers would be ruthlessly rejected to the point of imprisonment.After years of dictatorship, in 1990, democracy caused Koreans to protest as their only way of projecting films (through Motion Picture Law) verified to become more minimal and insufficient. They refused to showcase American movies and advertisement until their films would be distributed; the Korean government was determined to grow the industry and so they made it so that Korean films be played in most Korean cinemas. This aggravated America, and so the dispute was settled by an agreement to evenly distribute Korean and American filmography.
This paramount change gave Korean cinema gateway to the world and it is now the 7th largest film market globally and could effortlessly be the new pop-culture sensation. But the only thing more curious than the Korean cinema story lines is its speed in climbing up the ladder of social recognition. So, apart from their manipulative way of gaining global attention, what caused Korean cinema to be so spontaneous in its rise to the attention of the world?
“In 1993, the Korean film industry’s domestic market share was 16 per cent, a new low. In 2006, it hit 64 per cent.” [Byrnes, 2016]
- The distinctive plots of Korean drama that are categorized as peculiar or bizarre were eliminated in American story lines yet they were actually a very engaging element of filmography. This abated the interest in Americans, as the repetitive and predictory state of their own films precipitated them to look for something new.
- Going back to post-dictatorship, the freedom and placidity of film regulations in South Korea resulted in many viewers becoming creators themselves as they had many narratives to show – especially in a country monopolized by war and politics. Additionally, in the diversity of people in the audience, there are ‘chaebols’ (rich family businesses). If a child of a million-dollar business is interested in investing in films, they invest a few million dollars worth.
- Furthermore, the act of Korea spreading their aesthetics into the world (especially K-Pop) via events like Korean Film Festival, Korean Wave and KCon highly introduces the integration of American teenagers into Korean entertainment. This kind of event leads many CEOs to an ‘imaginative cultural shock.’ [Mediapen, 2017] Lee Jaehyun, UChun media pen representative, attended the 2017 KCon in Los Angeles and the enthusiasm in the atmosphere indicated that his vision of globalization was becoming a reality; soon the world will enjoy Korean entertainment and Korea will accelerate as a cultural powerhouse. “70% (85,000) of the fans who visited the venue were white teenagers.” [Lee Jae-Hyun, 2017] He is determined to establish the notion of Americans watching 2-3 Korean movies per year, eating 1-2 Korean food each month and listening to Korean songs daily; to further reinforce the globalization of the Korean wave and make it a part of the western society.
The Wall Street Journal said in an article published on June 17, “It is hard to find popular culture that is as successful as the Korean Wave in the whole world, and there is a KCon at the center.”
But, where does the real source of their popularity lie?