[OP-ED] Hello Hallyu: Influence of Korean Culture in America

Nicole Swayne, July 22, 2016, 6 p.m.

If you were to casually walk into Forever 21 for a shopping spree, you might be surprised to hear non-English songs being played on the radio speaker. However, frequent shoppers can attest that Korean songs are actually commonly played in the store. To some, it may also come as a surprise that Korean-inspired designs can also be found in the store. But seeing as America is a melting pot for multiple cultures and ethnic groups, it should come as no surprise.

You have probably heard the song “Gangnam Style” by Korean singer PSY multiple times on the car radio. And although you couldn’t sing along, you probably tried to mimic the dance moves. However, if you weren’t a fan, you may have wondered why it became so popular. I mean, how does a non-Korean speaker become so wrapped up in songs that they do not understand? Because of K-pop magic, that’s why! K-pop is an international medium bringing people together, and as long as it stays that way, it’s going to be one fad that is not going away any time soon. Fan-bases are willing to fight you on that.

After becoming a popular fad in 2012, PSY’s well-known single introduced more people to K-pop, and the song became so catchy it had most Americans dancing along to his music video. Americans were also surprised to see mash-ups between artists like Snoop Dog and the Korean girl group Girls’ Generation. Even before that, the Wonder girls became popular with American audiences in 2010 after opening for a Justin Bieber concert on Valentine’s Day at the Hollywood Palladium.

In addition, very recently, the YouTube ‘Try Guys’ covered last year’s KCON to share their experiences with Korean music and culture. In the videos posted on ‘BuzzFeed’, the men try cooking bibimbap, acting out scenes from popular romance K-dramas, modeling as famous K-pop celebs, and singing K-pop songs. Though one member is Korean-American, it was still interesting to see him taking on his own culture as well as his friends becoming immersed in his culture too.

With so many artists making a comeback this upcoming year, K-pop is a rapidly growing phenomenon that is exposing more and more Americans to Korean entertainment and culture. KCON is also coming up this month, we can’t help but ride the wave of Hallyu! Hopefully one day KCON can also be the gateway for other diverse groups to share their cultures. Most people have probably heard of Anime Expo, which is a widely-known convention for Japanese culture. However, there are other cultures out there who are not talked about as often. And maybe the next time you walk into Forever 21, you may find yourself saying, "Hey, I like this song “I Am the Best” by 2NE1. It’s pretty catchy.”

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