No one can deny that nowadays, the South Korean entertainment industry is very popular not just in Asia, but worldwide. The picture of western people covering dance Blackpink or people joining the fan meeting is not something strange anymore. Wherever we look is all surrounded by Korean cultures. It gradually influences us day by day without us knowing at all. 

What is soft power?

Soft power is the use of attraction and persuasion to influence other people’s minds and behaviors. The sources of it are culture, political values, and positive global engagement. As it is not coercion, many countries believe and use it to gain power and strength to their countries. The tools will be varied and different in each country, but for South Korea, it is their culture.

Soft power and Korean Pop Culture are like peanut butter and jelly. The two terms always come together when we discuss the Korean entertainment products. It is because after we consume their media, we usually find it fascinating or even want to buy something we saw in the media.

examples of South Korean exported cultural products

Hallyu or Korean wave are terms used for describing phenomena that South Korean contemporary cultures spread out the entire globe through their entertainment media. This phenomenon brings South Korea a huge load of money. Example of famous products of Koreans is music, cuisine, games, beauty products, TV series, and movies.

Parasite 

Parasite officials poster

“Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,”

Parasite director, Bong Joon Ho

Parasite is a South Korean movie that is very famous all over the world. It presents a thriller dramatic story about the Social gap between the wealthy and the poor. With the interesting plot and good quality, Parasite became the first non-English language film that won Oscars for the best picture and three other awards. This shows the other important success of the South-Korean attempt in the world entertainment industry. 

Parasite shooting location tour

Top 4 shooting locations in Parasite (Seoul)

After the Oscar-winning, it attracts Parasite fans from inside South Korea itself and all over the world to visit shooting locations. Tourists do not just come to visit and take a picture then leave. But they also help boost local economies by spending their money on souvenirs, food, and services. 

www.visitseoul.net is the tourism official website run by the Seoul Metropolitan Government. They saw the opportunity and provided the Parasite tour of shooting locations before the movie won Oscar. The package will include Woori Supermarket (Doijissal Supermarket), Stairs in Ki-taek’s village, the stairs of Jahamun Tunnel, and Pizza Age (Sky Pizza). From this, we can see the cooperation between the South Korean government and the local people. It reflects the attempt for every sector to boost tourism by using Parasite as the medium.

Jjapauri

Another impact of soft power in this movie is Jjapaguri. It is a dish that appeared in the Parasite movie made from Jjapaghetti and Neoguri noodles and adding steak on top. The result is people go make it at home and post on social media after finishing watching. Many stores also run out of ingredients.

The fun fact is even though instant noodles are not a traditional Korean food, Koreans eat about 75 ramyeon per person per year, it is the first in the world rank. 

If you want to taste it yourself, you can click the link down below. It is very easy and yummy!

From this case study, we can see that one launching of K-dramas can impact other Korean goods as well. It generates income for people and countries. Also building a good image of the whole country. This is just the tip of the iceberg, South Korea also gains money from exporting other famous products like cosmetics and fashion.

Soft power ft. Korean people

Soft power is not just for people outside their country but is also a tool for the government to put some values and ideas to their people. It can be simple things like oral health to more serious things. For example, Korean people used to have bad breath issues because they did not like to brush their teeth. Therefore, we can notice many scenes in Korean TV series like this one, Pinocchio that depicts people brushing their teeth.

Pinocchio,2014

Another example is Itaewon class. If you had Korean friends who are LGBTQ+ or had been to Korea, you may already have heard that Korean people have stereotypical issues. It is very difficult to be who you are if it contrasts with what society wants you to be. Therefore, Kdramas like Itaewon class become a tool for the South Korean government to fix that rooted issue. The series is full of character diversity in gender and race. Itaewon, the setting, is also a place rich in cultures from all over the world. There is a place like a mosque and gay bar where the minority in society don’t have to hide their personality and be themselves.

Itaewon class main characters

Soft power is also used to inspire people in their country. Record of youth, Start-Up, and Itaewon class are good examples of when the Korean government tries to influence the new generation of people to follow their dreams and start their businesses. All three of them have just released las, showing the current attempt of the Korean government.

Start-up (Netflix)


Start-up, like its name, told about the whole start-up business world from origins to finish line. Furthermore, the series mainly focuses on Artificial Intelligence (AI) aspects in business and their impact on society. And if we notice, the key motto of the Sandbox company where all characters do their start-up business is “follow your dream”. Every detail has been already arranged to put some aspects to people.

Another thing that South Korea is working on is Startups. They planned to be a world-leading startup country. They founded the ministry of SMEs and startups for this. The Statista Research Development showed that South Korea has more than 1.7 million startups within 2019. 

The South Korean government does not just give money to people but they provide the proper Startup ecosystem like a research and development team, co-working space, and agencies to help people. Seoul, the capital city which aimed to be a top5 world startups city is providing various startup projects. For instance, the “Testbed City Seoul” offers facilities for people who are working on innovative technology to test their products. 

(testbed city Seoul)

Artificial Intelligence in South Korea is also fascinating, they invest around 2 trillion US dollars for researching and developing AI. and want to be a top4 in the world AI market by 2022. Therefore, in this series, we usually saw the use of AI in daily lives and startup companies.

What made K-dramas very successful?

Bong Joon Ho and casts from Parasite at the 92nd academy awards, Hollywood

‘Success in Korean waves all around the world was not due to luck, every step they took has been well planned.’

From the country that has been through several wars and used to be one of the poorest countries in the world. The South Korean government decided that the thing that will help recover their country’s economies is their own “cultures‘. Therefore, since 2000, South Korea has set a foundation for the Korean wave by establishing and expanding cultural research centers, institutes of cultural technology studies, and cultures and art centers all over the country. They also used to invest around 5 million thousand Korean won in this plan. All of these are aimed to support cultural industries and spread them internationally.

Ministry of culture, sports and tourism & KOCCA

Moreover, they found “The Korea Creative Content Agency” or “KOCCA” to support private sectors, especially small ones in license, copyrights, technologies, research, funding or even renting studios at cheaper prices. We can say that anything developers want, KOCCA will provide it all. The institute is also trying to promote and suggest Korean cultures in every media and they are still running the institute nowadays.

South Korea is probably the only country with the ministry of culture, sports, and tourism. Also in other countries, it is likely to be impossible for film directors to be in a cabinet position. However, a film director like Lee Chang Dong used to be a head in the ministry of culture, sports, and tourism.

South Korea is probably the only country with the ministry of culture, sports, and tourism. Also in other countries, it is likely to be impossible for film directors to be in a cabinet position. However, a film director like Lee Chang Dong used to be a head in the ministry of culture, sports, and tourism.

Apart from government support, K-dramas both TV series and movies are outstanding in characters and plot. It doesn’t just stick to the old idea that made them succeed before. But it keeps developing and finds something new instead. They used to be popular in romantic-drama and romantic-comedy styles. However, some of them are now talking about various topics like professions or even the dark side of Korean society. For example, Sky castle presents a story of a competitive education system or Dr.prisoner that mentioned the corruption in jail.

To conclude, all of these factors lead South Korean dramas to be successful as we see nowadays. South Korea’s reputation is now not limited only among Asian countries but all over the world. If you are interested, you can explore more by watching it yourself. There are many choices for you to decide based on your interest.

Or if you cannot choose yet, Good luck to you! I also do a series recommendation account on Twitter. So go visit my Twitter account: @mundayfaves 💜 Enjoy!