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South Korea is one of the only countries in the world, that has a dedicated goal to become the world’s leading exporter of popular culture.

It is a way for Korea to develop its “soft power”. Since early 1999, Hallyu has become one of the biggest cultural phenomena across Asia. The Hallyu effect has been tremendous, contributing to 0.2% of Korea’s GDP in 2004, amounting to approximately USD 1.87 billion. More recently in 2014, Hallyu had an estimated USD 11.6 billion boost on the Korean economy.


The popular media in the region has attributed the origins of Hallyu to a couple of movies and TV soaps that were released in 1999. “Swiri, and “Autumn in my heart” in 2000 that sustained the excitement created by Swiri. These were followed by “My Sassy girl” in 2001 and “Winter Sonata” in 2004. All of these became very popular not only in Korea but also in Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China and Vietnam. The success of these entertainment products created a tremendous buzz about the exploding popularity of Korean culture. Regional media sources were quick enough to pick up the cues and collectively announce the birth of Hallyu. Kdramas have emerged as well packaged goods with a good measure of visual and emotional appeal. Many of the soap operas have depicted exotic and serene coastal and rural areas, and the theme has been the underlying values of Asian audience – family melodrama with lots of emotions and innocent love. Many of these soap operas have created records of sorts. The recent “Descendants of the Sun” television series, aired in 2016, has also enjoyed immense success across Asia, with 1.1 billion views during the 2 months it aired.

Growth of Hallyu

This increase in the quantity and quality of kdramas has helped sustain the growth of Hallyu. Additionally, the Korean government sponsors 20-30% of a USD 1 billion investment fund earmarked to nurture and export popular culture. The remaining funds comes from investment banks and private companies and are managed by the Korean Venture Investment Corporation.

The cumulative effect of movies, music, kdramas and games has been tremendously positive to the Korean economy and the Korean country image in the region. Hallyu contributed USD 11.6 billion to the Korean economy in 2014. Hallyu has contributed immensely to Korean tourism as well. In 2015, Korea earned USD 15.2 billion from tourism, attracting a total of 13.2 million tourists. With the maddening popularity of kdramas, the focus seems to have shifted towards Korean values, society, emotions and the beautiful locations projected in these movies. This in turn has given Korea a good chance to create new perceptions and images of itself across the world.