After reading the article today on Times of India – Korean Wave takes Indian Kids in its sway – suddenly reminded me of the day I was shooting for the Arirang Episode. I had asked my show director if she had visited India. And she told me that she had been to Nagaland to shoot a documentary as Korean Culture was very popular in that part of India. I had not paid much attention to her then, but then reading the article today kind of reinforced the fact that Korean Culture was definitely getting popular in India and it piqued my curiosity to find out more about this phenomenon.
The article above says that northeast states (bordering China, Bangladesh, Mynamar or Bhutan) was one of the first regions in India to take to the Korean Wave – Hallyu. In September 2000, the Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF) imposed a blanket ban on the screening of Hindi movies and Hindi satellite channels in Manipur. In order to fill up this vacuum, people took refuge in Southeast Asian cinema. Today, Korean channels like Arirang TV and KBS are aired by the cable operators in the northeast and each household has its own favorite.
Korean Drama and movies such as Full House, Boys over Flowers, My Girl, Green Rose, Stairway to Heaven and many others are popular in this region, with their favorite Korean actors being Rain, Lee Min-ho, Kim Beom, Song Hye-kyo, Lee Da-hae, Jang Nara, Koo Hye-seon and others.
The article also says that the Korean fixation is not just limited to music, movies and TV. It is also seeping into kids’ fashion in India. In the northeast, for instance, it’s not uncommon for a boy to have his favourite actor’s hairstyle, or for a girl to be seen dressed up as a popular Korean actress. The style is considered somewhat unique as it includes long straight hair and fuses it with masculine side burns.
Koreans ethos has taken over hearts and homes of many families in the northeast region but is slowly getting popularity in other parts of India as well, thanks to the Internet. Korean movies are regularly aired on UTV World Movies channel, making it easier for younger Indians to develop a taste for alternative cinema and Asian culture if they are bored of Indian television. But then they have a lot of catching up to do.
Chinese cuisines, cinema and culture is very popular in India. Almost everyone is aware about Feng Shui, Wind Chimes, Bamboo Trees and Laughing Buddha to bring good fortune and luck in your family. Chinese food is available is available in almost every nook and corner of major Indian cities. And Chinese movies subtitled in English plays in almost every English Movie channels in India. For that matter, even Japanese manga comics and cuisines, including Sushi, are a bit popular in India and Indians seem to be more aware about Japanese brands in India. A lot of Indians are also curious about learning Japanese Language. Coaching classes, which offer Japanese Language training are easily available in the major metro cities of India.
But the same cannot be said about Korea. Indians are not really aware of Korean Culture and not many know of Koreans brands beyond Samsung, LG and POSCO. Some think, North and South Korea to be one unified country. And in-spite of Korean Food being healthy it is not yet that popular in India. Everybody knows that Sushi is from Japan and Chow Mian is from China but a very few are aware about Kimchi and Kimbap from Korea. The Korean Food served at various Indian Restaurant is just a variation of some Chinese recipe served in the form of Korean Dish. And finding a good tutor to learn Korean Language is just impossible (atleast in Mumbai, based on my personal experience).
It might take some time for Indians to develop an interest in Korean Culture and demand Korean content so that it becomes almost mainstream and popular in India. May be it was a bit easier in the North East region because of the ban, that Korean Dramas became so popular. Circumstances made people in that region view and appreciate Korean content. But the same cannot be said about other states in India, where the youth has a choice about the content he or she can view on local channels and internet. So the popularity of the Korean Drama has to do more with the acceptance of Korean Culture and its appeal to the youth.