K-Wave, Contemporary Korea: K-Pop, K-Drama and K-Food

About Korea | Harry

May 21, 2019


When I saw Seoul officially release a new BTS Edition Discover Seoul Pass, I came to realize just how popular Korea has become globally throughout the years. Much of its success lies in the spread of Hallyu, or the K-Wave, and it is not strange today to hear tourists coming to Korea just because they love K-Pop, or they saw a K-Drama, or even after trying out some K-Food abroad.

In this post, I will briefly explain some of the changes Korea had gone through regarding its globalization, and the K-Wave. I will categorize the key characteristics of K-Wave into K-Pop, K-Drama and K-Food, to make explanations and references easier. It might not be perfectly accurate, but you will get a general idea of why Hallyu has become so popular.



K-Pop is a recognized music genre as much as Pop, Rock or Electronic. It is characterized by repetitive, catchy, and fancy melody tunes with a catchy rhythm, and enhanced by idol performers who can dance, sing and/or even rap on stage.

 (Girl group, Twice, from JYP Entertainment)
It is hard to pinpoint exactly which group/singer and which period of time did K-Pop started becoming popular worldwide. Between 1995 and 1998, the three music industries JYP, SM, and YG Entertainment formed, and these industries helped to pave the way for future artists and idols to enter music industry. 

Groups such as Girl's Generation (SM), Big Bang (YG) and Wonder Girls (JYP) were one of the first to start performing and promoting to fans overseas through concerts and SNS, but initially towards Asia. Songs such as "Gee", "Nobody" and later "Bang Bang Bang" became hits overseas, with overseas fans being able to cite Korean lyrics during concerts.

Psy (from YG)'s "Gangnam Style" was one of the most viewed Youtube MVs throughout the world, and idol group EXO also played a huge role in spreading K-Pop especially towards the Western countries.

The era of the big 3 (JYP, YG, SM) came to a hold when a certain group called BTS, from Big Hit Entertainment came to sweep, and spread K-Pop like wildfire to the US and Europe. Their songs were continuously featured on the US Billboard 200, and BTS also had won Top Artist for three years in a row on the Billboard Music Awards. It is not an exaggeration to say that global K-Pop today, is currently the era of BTS.






Much like K-Pop, K-Drama had first spread across Asia, in regions such as Japan and China, to later spread to other parts of the world such as South-East Asia, and towards Europe and the US. The most common theme for K-Dramas is romance, often brought with dramatic conflicts and sequences that keep the audience on their toes.


One of the most influential early K-Dramas that caught the attention of Japanese, and Chinese viewers was Winter Sonata, starring Bae Yong Joon. It was so famous especially among the Japanese viewers that Bae Yong Joon got the nickname 'Yon-sama'.

Other notable dramas include "My Love from the Star" and "Descendants of the Sun". These dramas helped to spark the popularity of 'chicken and beer, chimaek', the Korean army, and the culture in general.

Korean movies did not gain as much popularity as K-Dramas did due to the popularity of Hollywood movies, but some notable movies worth mentioning are "The Host" (괴물) and "The Train to Busan" (부산행).







K-Food is now so much more than the common 'Kimchi' or 'Bibimbap' that were representative of Korea in the past. Rather, Korean food industries today, are focusing on spreading the Korean culture, and history throughout the food.


As much as how Japanese food, or Thai food have become globally recognized in a short period of time, Korea, and K-Food too has become globally popular through recent times.  

Being a representative of slow food, healthy and dieting, K-Food, featuring healthy side dishes, and retaining its local, original tastes have become popular originating from Korean Barbeque and Kimchi. 

K-Pop stars have also played a huge role in helping to promote K-Food, through promotions and K-Dramas, drawing attention to fans to try out the food.




I may have missed out many details regarding K-Pop, K-Drama, or K-Food, but there are so much more innate, and correlated aspects which all helped K-Wave to build up to its popularity and significance today.

There is no telling of what the future holds for K-Wave, but it seems like right now, it's just the beginning.



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Hello, and welcome to my blog! My aim is to provide new tourists and expats information and daily tips about living in Korea. These tips will be ranging from visa, some history and overview, food, popular attractions, and general information about Korea.