The Rapid Spread of K-Entertainment

Director Bong Joon Ho poses with two of his three Oscars at the 2020 awards show in the dubbed “Oscar Kiss” moment.

David Swanson (Shutterstock)

Director Bong Joon Ho poses with two of his three Oscars at the 2020 awards show in the dubbed “Oscar Kiss” moment.

Chase Kim, Photojournalist

It’s indisputable that K-entertainment has taken the world by storm. In recent years, K-pop has clawed its way up in the music industry until now, when the genre seems to be the most dominant world-wide. In 2020, Parasite – a Korean film – was the first foreign-language film to win the Best Picture accolade at the Oscars. Most recently, Netflix’s “Squid Game,” also Korean, has already blown past all other foreign-language show records and is on track to become Netflix’s most watched show of all time.


It’s incredible.


South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world in the 1960s, ravaged by war and Japanese occupation to grow into a powerhouse of art and innovation. 


In a sense, K-pop first paved the way to worldwide popularity that the rest of the mediums would follow. It became popular in the Eastern world – mostly China and Japan around the 1990’s and 2000’s, but wasn’t well known in the West yet. The k-pop of this era, though, sounded vastly different than that of today and had a sort of bubbly, happy-go-lucky feel (listen to a song called Candy by H.O.T. and you’ll see what I’m talking about). 


I wish I could say I grew up listening to this 90’s k-pop and that I watched it develop as a genre, but I didn’t. I was only very vaguely aware of it. That changed, of course, with Gangnam Style in 2012. Who could forget it?


For many, including myself, it was a first exposure to foreign anything that was popular. It sounds wrong to say that a slightly overweight Korean man with a funny dance kicked off the popularity of foreign entertainment, but it’s true.


Then came the explosion of K-dramas, BTS and Blackpink, Bong Joon Ho with his films, and everything else that makes k-entertainment so popular.


Chocola Liu (10) puts k-pop (more specifically k-pop idols) like this, “Your idol [is] your motivation to becoming better, no matter your grades or outlooking or achievements.” It seems like the foreign presence brings a different point of view to the table than the American industry offers, one that people have loved and latched on to. It’s hard to describe that different point of view, that strange appeal of Korean arts because at its roots – Korea is no different than any other country. And yet, some refuse to listen to any music that isn’t k-pop or watch any show that isn’t a Korean drama.


 I almost wish some research institution would publish a scientific journal that definitively screams: This is it. This is why your brains are, for the following weird reasons, hardwired to automatically be drawn to BTS or Parasite or Squid Game or whatever you’re watching.


With that said and my crazy rambling over –


There’s no doubt that K-entertainment will continue to expand. It’s been spreading and spreading with no signs of stopping in upcoming years. The only question is: 


What and who’s next up?