Korean ‘Hallyu’ and the Pinoy invasion

Carlos Santamaria

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How is the Korean influence felt in today's Filipino pop culture?

'HALLYU' SA PINAS. The cast of popular Korean telenovela 'Boys Over Flowers.' Photo from their Facebook fan club

MANILA, Philippines – What is “Hallyu” and how has it impacted the Philippines?

“Hallyu” refers to the “wave” of the popularity of South Korean entertainment and culture starting in the late 1990s. It reached the Philippines with the first Korean telenovelas aired locally in 2003.

The Korean Cultural Center in Manila recently organized Hallyu sa Pinas, a forum about the impact of the so-called “Korean Wave” in the country, where Korean cultural products are becoming increasingly popular.

Expansion of the middle class

Since 2003, the influence of “Hallyu” has been particularly significant in the production of telenovelas, the first success of the Korean Wave in the Philippines, according to Dr. Crisanta Flores.

Dr. Flores, a professor of Filipino Literature at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, told RAPPLER that Korean soap operas were initially quite different from the locally-produced series.

“From the usual poverty-ridden (Filipino) narratives, the (Korean) stories are light,” she said.

This is because the target audience of the Korean drama is not the poor but the lower middle class, with aspirations to advance in their economic and social status.

“The effect on the Filipino audience,” Dr. Flores explained, “Is that when they view urban scenes of Seoul, there is a dream, an aspiration to go to Korea.”

Korean soap operas “are an expression of the expansion of the lower middle class,” she said.

Better storytelling

“The primary reason why Filipinos are so enamored with Korean dramas is the storytelling. It’s not as much about the plot as about the way stories are told,” noted Florinda Mateo, another professor from UP.

Mateo explained that many Filipino viewers are amazed at “how fast a story could be told, how fast a plot can develop and the kind of acting — which is quite different from the brand of acting that we know from Filipino actors.”

“They find it refreshing and appealing that these (Korean) actors can do dramas but at the same time infuse some sense of humor.”

According to Mateo, the influence of “Hallyu” in today’s Filipino soap operas is in the stories now told.

The plots “tend to develop faster and the pace is quicker compared to dramas in the past that could run for as long as two years and create a lot of subplots.
Now, they are more straightforward.”

K-Pop also on the rise

But “Hallyu” is not just about telenovelas.

K-Pop is also becoming more and more popular among the Filipino youth, thanks to the Internet and crowdsourcing, according to marketing consultant Katherine Choy.

Choy, who works for music events organizing company Astroplus, said that crowdsourcing enables the fans to feel closer to their idols in a way that Western music cannot give them.

“The fans are able to (share) their fan art, (get) info about their idols, and the idols themselves are able to communicate with their fans in a personal way through online.”

Choy stressed that Korean cultural products in general are “not a fad anymore” and K-Pop in particular should now be considered a musical genre on its own, especially now that it is “infiltrating the global scene” beyond Asia.

Influence in Pinoy films

The Korean Wave has also influenced recent Filipino movies such as “Kimmy Dora,” a huge box office success followed by a sequel shot in South Korea and based on a Korean-inspired plot.

“Filipinos like Korean films because they are fresher, less formulated and with a degree of violence and eroticism that appeals to the local audience, who are just being bombarded by teenybopper and romantic comedies in their local cinemas,” said “Kimmy Dora” writer Chris Martinez.

Martinez noted that Koreans “do their movies very well. They are very technically polished, the cinematography is always great, (as well as) the production design.”

“They invest a lot of money in their films, so hopefully Filipinos can learn to do the same.” – Rappler.com

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