K-Pop Invasion: The Growing Influence of East Asian Pop Culture and What it Means to the Arab world
The rise of Asia’s cultural economy and the exporting of pop culture, entertainment, music, TV dramas, and movies has been taking over the world for a while now and most of us don’t understand where all of this coming from. Why is it even trending in our region? We’re willing to bet that, among your friends, you at least have one friend who’s a hardcore K-Pop fan. We’re here to set the record straight and delve into the reason behind the growing influence of East Asian pop culture, and what it means to us Arabs.
More than a decade ago the world was mainly dominated by American-made music, films, and television, even our fashion style and perception of the world was through the lenses of westernized eyes, so what changed?
Let’s start from the beginning. Do you remember how the Japanese animations Pokemon and Digimon were a huge part of our childhood, not to mention Hong Kong’s martial arts stars Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee who both were a fixture in our households. Analysts were already using the word “Hallyu”, which means the Korean Wave, referring to the spread of South Korean fashion, beauty products, television dramas and music in other countries, especially in Asia, according to CNN.
In fact, Anthony Fung, an expert in pop culture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong said in a statement, “The East is coming,” and it has been for more than a decade now, as East Asia, South Korea in particular, has really taken over. Now, there’s not just one martial arts hero or just one popular animation, but a range of different East Asian exports and the reason behind that is globalization; the influence of social media, as well as the internet, have revolutionized the transnational flows of pop culture to the world.
Adding to that, with a population of 51 million, South Korea didn’t have a big market to sustain its entertainment industry, so they had to go international and the government didn’t hesitate to support its country’s expansion, so it chose the soft power of entertainment. Back in 2011, Japan actually injected $237 million into its creative sectors such as film, animation, beauty, and fashion. They succeeded in drawing the world’s attention through flashy dance moves, edgy fashion, and most importantly, soap operas, which experienced massive global commercial success in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. This increase in movies, music, and soap operas has helped sustain the continuous growth of Hallyu.