By Jeongnam Kim
(Former Senior Presidential Secretary for Education·Culture·Society, World Korean News advisor)
When I watched European youths getting extremely excited at the performance of K-POP in Paris last year, I felt it very real that the world has changed a lot. So far we were a country where we were just satisfied with inducing foreign cultures or playing a copycat of them. Now we find ourselves creating a new culture and exporting it abroad. This is a big change.
Until less than 10 years ago, we were hesitant to open our country up to the influx of Japanese culture because we were afraid our youths would be polluted with the vulgar of the Japanese popular culture. As the culture window was open, we saw with a sense of amazement the Korean culture on the contrary landing on Japan, and it was rather Japan which was worried about the Korean popular culture invading all over its world.
In fact, the Korean culture proves to have a power with its drive getting more energized as days go by. Now, the Hallyu, or the Korean popular culture has gone beyond Europe and expanding its area of influence over to South America, Southeast Asia and all the way to Africa.
What on earth is Hallyu? I would like to tell that this is a cultural outlook exploding to the world and to the future as well based on the confidence of having achieved the industrialization and democratization, with our beautiful personality and the qualification of our cultural background.
This Hallyu is not at all the product of an accident. It is based on the Korean people's noble esprit, or the spirit of Hongik In-gan, or Humanism which was the founding morale of our nation and the high echelon of the Korean people's cultural qualification. The economic affluence and the free spirit were needed to bring this to a flower. Our industrialization as well as democratization was the dynamic force behind it.
It was of course possible thanks to the basis of having achieved the industrialization of our country called the "Miracle of the River Han in the fact that the explosion of the Hallyu was timed and came along with the transformation of our country from the status of an aid recipient to the status of an aid provider. In other words, the national power was the basis of this new cultural phenomenon.
The greatest ill effects and crime of the 30-odd year-long military dictatorship of Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-huan were the consummation of Korean people's prominent cultural capability, that should be used to make a contribution to the world peace and the welfare of the humanity to the self-consuming fights between elements for and against democracy.
The best manpower had been consumed in the struggles against the dictatorship for our democratization. The creativity and the cultural capacity of our people, which had been suppressed so far until recently was finally explored toward a higher and wider ground with our nation's democratization.
This is a phenomenon of the Korean people's noble nature and cultural capacity naturally exploding thus in the name of the Hallyu. In this regard, I believe that the Hallyu is a premonitory foretelling the coming of our great age of the Korean nation, or the age of the Hong-ik Civilization.