BENGALURU: You’d be lying if you say haven’t heard of PSY’s Ganganam Style, it exploded on the Internet and found its way to every dance floor, meme page and merchandise store. Today our understanding of South Korean pop culture has gone beyond this world-wide hit, and Bengaluru is one of the many Indian cities riding the the Hallyu Wave.
There are online communities promoting this culture -- hosting discussions on Korean pop music and dramas -- and people learning the language and greeting friends with a ‘Anyeounghoseyo’. There are meetups organised at Korean restaurants, groups that follow the fashion of Korean idols and readers who track fan fiction religiously.
Jayashree, a 24-year-old software engineer, is part of one among the many Facebook groups for K-pop fans. “Earlier the group merely had 50 members, today it has reached over 350 members and continues to grow.”
They organise regular meetups in parks and Korean restaurants such as Hae Kum Gang and The Himalayan. Here they discuss their favourite dramas, bands, movies and even the latest trends in the industry, and conduct quizzes to test each other’s knowledge on the genres.
20-year-old Viola Pires has started taking classes in Korean. “My love for K-drama and music made me take a Korean language course in my university.” Radhika Das, 22, says, she has started using popular phrases used in dramas such as ‘Anyeounghoseyo’ (for hello), Sarangheyo (love you) and Gamsahamnida (thank you).
Many have started writing fan fiction in English and they have devoted readers. Apoorva Balaraju says that some of her favourite fan-fiction writing can be found on Tumblr and Wattpad titled ‘Labyrinth’, ‘The most beautiful moments of life’ and ‘Paper hearts’.
Besides writing, youngsters also make song dance covers of their favourite bands. They are even invited to participate in K-pop contests organized by the Korean Cultural Center in India. Winners get to go to K-Pop World Festival held in Changwon, South Korea, where Hallyu fans from across the world come together.
Singers in Shocking Pink
Not everyone can follow the language, but Korean music albums are popular with Bengaluru’s teenagers and young adults because of their aesthetically pleasing music videos that present catchy tunes and great choreography. Their singers sport unconventional dressing styles and shocking hair colours, like cotton-candy pink.
Fans are also drawn in by the bands’ extensive social media presence, and they keep having variety shows and fan services in the form of frequent interactions (K-CON) and press meets.
Angsty Singers and Flower Boys Pull Crowds
There are many bands, singers and actors to pick from but a few are more popular than the rest. BIG BANG, one of the most prominent boy bands, has a huge number of fans in the city. Few fervent fans celebrated group leader G-Dragon’s birthday in Cubbon Park last year. Another crowd favourite is a relatively new group BTS (Bangtan Boys), the only K-Pop group to be nominated for the Billboard Music Awards.
They have rebellious attitude and they talk about frustration among youngsters. Girls’ Generation songs have been responsible for setting trends in make-up and fashion. The boy group Exo formed is also popular for their flower-boy image and quirky songs. A term “Bias” is used to indicate a fan’s favourite group member or actor. Praneeth, an ardent BIG BANG fan, says “I like all the members of the group, but my bias would be Taeyang.” Fandoms have distinct names – BTS fans are called A.R.M.Y, BIG BANG fans are VIPs’, girl group Twice’s fandom is Once.Most K-dramas are winning because they keep it short – 16 to 20 episodes and last only for a season.
They cater to varied audiences with high-school romances, historicals, crime thrillers and workplace drama. People are hooked to plotlines, settings and the characters’ mannerisms (even food habits). Most importantly, they are not recycled saas-bahu stories. Owing to the rising popularity, last year’s worldwide hit movie Train to Busan was dubbed in many regional languages including Hindi and Tamil for release in India. 2016’s most-watched K-drama ‘Descendants of the Sun’ is currently being aired on a Hindi channel.
‘Boys over Flowers, a high school romance drama revolving around four rich arrogant boys who cross paths with an ordinary girl. After this drama actor Lee Min Ho rose to international fame.
‘Goblin’, a 2017 drama, was a worldwide hit, known for its exceptional cinematography, catchy OST (original sound track) and charming lead actors. With the release of Train to Busan and Goblin, Gong Yoo currently holds the top-spot among actors.
Park Shin Hye, known for her dramas like ‘You’re Beautiful’, ‘The Heirs’ and ‘Pinocchio’, is also much loved.
What Fans have to say?
27-year-old civil engineer Hemavathi DM says that she has been a fan for 9 years. “At first, I felt I was the only one into Korean dramas and music, until one day I found a group dedicated to all Indian fans which included a few Bengalureans.” Later on along with her friend Rakshi, she created a group dedicated to Bengaluru fans which has about 350 members now.
Law student Lakshmi Movvar says K-drama and music helped her develop other interests. “My favourite band Bigbang got me interested in contemporary art because TOP (a member) is an art collector. So it’s possible that my life would have been very different if I hadn’t gotten into K-pop.”
20-year-old Apeksha Suresh spends around 6-8 hours a day watching dramas and listening to music. She is drawn by the attractive cast, soundtrack and fashion sense of the characters. “My favourite actors are Lee Min Ho, Kim So Hyun, Jun Ji Hyun and Park Shin Hye,” she says.
Jayshree has been to almost all the K-pop concerts that have been held in India.
Apoorva Balaraju thoroughly enjoys Korean cuisine and visits Korean restaurants every month. “I am BTS Jimin biased (in K-pop music),” she says.
Anieka Sequira says she spends 5-6 hours a day on Korean culture-related experiences. “Whatever I watch is in Korean now and I’m a huge fan of Amber from F(x),” she says. She uses sites such as Allkpop, Korea Boo and Soompi to keep herself updated about new trends in the industry.