According to The Korean Times, there has been an increase in K-drama viewership during the lockdown, making India one of the top six countries contributing to K-pop and drama views. The Indian fascination with Korean food, language and culture among K-fans of all ages is a major result of the K-drama craze. For many years, K-pop and K-dramas have been popular subcultures among the people of India. They, along with other cultural exports from the country, are part of the Hallyu cultural wave in Korea. Hallyu, or the Korean wave, has been around for a while, but with increased Internet and OTT platform access in India, particularly during pandemics that give people more time to explore foreign cultures and content, it has seen a boom like never before. The subculture commanded a niche audience in India.
It inspired students and young people in India’s north-eastern states, but the situation changed when Netflix began pushing to bring South Korean content to the world.
Based on the impact and power of ‘Hallyu,’ the government desired to make K-pop known around the world. Recognizing that Hallyu can be used as potential “soft power,” South Korea’s Ministry of Culture established a separate division for K-pop. It is marketed as a tool for educating the rest of the world about South Korean culture and increasing tourism. Korea made revenue of approx. 11.6 billion dollars in 2017 from the Kpop business, out of which a 5 billion-dollar contribution was by BTS (BangTan Boys) alone!
K-pop and K-dramas
PSY’s viral single ‘Gangnam Style’ from 2012 was unquestionably influential in introducing K-pop to a vast majority of Indians. The reach of ‘Gangnam Style’ back in the day couldn’t be matched; simply hearing the first strains of the song, people of all ages were able to gallop on the floor and loudly mouth the catchphrase “Oppa Gangnam Style!”
Names of international phenomena such as ‘BTS’ and ‘Blackpink’ were already well-known in India prior to the pandemic, but the Hallyu wave enlightened us on various groups and genres. In the last three months, India has risen several notches to become one of the top three countries contributing to YouTube music-video views of Kpop bands such as BTS and BLACKPINK. There are many other groups such as EXO, (G)I-DLE, Red Velvet, Mamamoo, Treasure, and so on, and each of these groups has a different concept and sends an inspiring message with each album or single release.
The gap between Korean artists and Bollywood singers is closing day by day. Recently, Bollywood singer Armaan Malik, Korean-American artist Eric Nam, and music producer KSHMR collaborated on their single “Echo,” which has received worldwide acclaim.
One of the main reasons Kpop bands have such a large fan base is due to their clever use of social media. Some bands have even produced their own reality television shows. The show ‘Blackpink House’ depicts the daily life of the leading female k-pop band Blackpink. BTS also has its own online variety show, Run BTS!, and a film, Burn The Stage. Other groups like Treasure has T.Map. it is a way to show more content to their fans and is a way to connect with them.
Netflix India has recently acknowledged the rising popularity of Korean dramas in the country. A new video was also released in collaboration with influencers Supriya Joshi and Krutika, explaining how and why these shows have captured the audience’s attention. South Korean dramas have had unexpected success on streaming services in India, prompting many Indians to learn Korean. During the coronavirus lockdown, Crash Landing on You beat several domestic hits and made it to Netflix’s top 10 in India.
According to Euromonitor, “the rise in viewership of Korean content and the popularity of K-pop music may mean a new and thriving business opportunity for Korean packaged food brands in India.”
KARD, being one of the biggest names in the Korean pop industry underestimated India’s growing love for Korean culture while touring in India for its maiden concert as the response was mind-boggling. However, entrepreneur Seo Young Doo already had some future plans rolled up his sleeve. Young Doo launched an online venture called Korikart, which entailed Korean beauty, skincare, food, fashion, home and kitchen products in December 2018.
Some particular dishes like- ramyun (Korean spicy noodles), tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), mandu (dumplings), kimchi and soju (alcohol). has become widely popular as they are recurring elements across dramas.
Korea’s Beauty Standards
South Koreans are extremely self-conscious about their appearance. If you look at any Kpop band, the artists will look like porcelain dolls with perfect features. Koreans are known for their outward beauty.
To specifically talk about Korean cosmetics, according to a survey conducted by Rakuten Insight, about 39% of Indian women stated that their skincare routine consisted of 25% of K-beauty products. About 3% of surveyed women in India said that all their skincare products were from Korean brands. Seo Young Doo has also stated that they have noticed the popularity of Korean drama and K-pop in India, and their experiment with Korean cosmetics gave us good feedback from the customers.
Kpop stars have also served as brand ambassadors for the Korean fashion industry, which is regarded as one of the most influential in the world, with BTS serving as the ambassador for Louis Vuitton and Blackpink’s Jennie serving as the brand ambassador for Chanel, among many others.
K-pop groups, primarily boy bands, are known for their gender-incompatible clothing styles, porcelain skin, and lavish makeup for heterosexual masculinity. People frequently make unfair comparisons between this type of music, but they should understand that it is simply broadening horizons and exploring what is not available to me within my boundaries. They must respect and value what exists and coming their way.
Another undeniable reason is India’s long history of systemic racism and the diversity of its people, particularly in the northeastern states. During a pandemic, the virus is commonly known as the “Chinese virus.” Harassment and hate crimes are on the rise in the Northeast.
The hatred stems from the misunderstanding that K-pop is superficial; it’s simply a group of more beautiful people dancing to vibrant music videos. Racism stirs confusion and discourages people from seeking more information. This is unfortunate because the moment you decide to open your heart, a whole new world of complex, meaningful, and powerful art opens up before you.
The sudden rise
K-drama veterans from India will recall seeing advertisements from unknown foreign brands while binge-watching their favourite Korean title on Rakuten Viki, a Korean-drama-dominated streaming platform based in the United States.
Between October 2019 and February of 2020, Rakuten Viki’s overall traffic from India decreased by 3 per cent. However, according to ET’s analysis of estimated data available on web analytics firm SimilarWeb, site traffic increased by 36% in the month of March to 1,102,000 hits, and by 46% over the last six months to 1,598,000 hits.