Descendants of the Sun Sparks Hallyu Craze in Ethiopia

Kyung Ho Kim, April 11, 2016, 8:06 a.m.

The popularity of the drama ‘Descendants of the Sun’ has been so widespread that it even grasped the hearts of many in Ethiopia, halfway around the world. In addition to the drama itself, K-pop and even the Korean language have become popular in Ethiopia. Young girls fell in love with the leading actors of the drama, ‘Descendants of the Sun’. They expressed their love for the hero Song Joong-gi by filling their phones with pictures of him, and watching all of the show’s episodes.

Some even commented they were fans of the actor way before ‘Descendants of the Sun’, and mentioned watching previous dramas starring Song, such as ‘Innocent Man’. The popularity of Korean TV programs in Ethiopia is not an altogether new phenomenon. Ethiopians watch Korean TV shows through KBS World or Arirang TV. They say that ‘one could not watch Korean TV Shows at all, but can’t stop after watching one’. Dramas such as “Boys over Flowers”, “Iris”, “Oh My Venus”, and “Innocent Man” were popular in the past, and variety shows such as “Annyeonghaseyo” (meaning Hello) were also adored by Ethiopian viewers. Ethiopians say that it’s unfortunate that there are only two channels that broadcast Korean shows. Recently, a channel called ‘KANA TV’ has been airing a dubbed version of the MBC drama “I Miss You”.

Ethiopian youth are also fond of K-pop. The Facebook page ‘KOREAN FANCLUB IN ETHIOPIA’ has more than 12,000 members. The actual number of K-pop fans is expected to be higher, as many do not have Facebook accounts. Teens and twenty-somethings participating in K-pop choreography contests are easy to find. The reason Korean shows and pop music are popular among Ethiopians is because they seem to work well within the cultural sentiment of the country. Ethiopians say that Korean pop culture content emphasizes families, love and friendship, and has less violence or obscenity compared to western culture.

The interest in Korean culture is also leading to interest in the Korean language. The Korean language course open at Addis Ababa University is packed for the fourth year. More than 200 students applied for the class, which has an 80-student limit. However, despite the popularity, there still isn’t an official Korean language major at Addis Ababa University. Lim Daniel, a guest professor at the university, commented that students who are interested in Korean culture or Korean IT technology are competing to take the course. He hopes that an official Korean major will be established, and is optimistic for more exchange to occur between Korea and Ethiopia.


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