Disclaimer: Originally published in May 2019. It is being republished since it still remains an interesting topic till today. 

South Korean economy is export-oriented since the 1960s. More than 50% of its GDP comes from exports.

It has traditionally exported just technology and heavy industry goods, but lately, it has been exporting its culture as well in an effort to make long-term profits.

Why Export Culture?

South Korean economy was badly hit by the Asian Economic Crisis of the 1990s. The Korean Government then made a long-term strategy to spread the Korean culture in order to expand its influence to fulfill its economic motive.

You see, South Korea has limited natural resources and its birth rate is declining, but it has a good human resource.

Korean conglomerates started to invest in the entertainment industry when its government openly started to promote it by giving tax breaks.

Hence, the Hallyu Wave or South Korean popular culture wave was a result of the efforts of the government to promote their soft power by exporting their culture; their instruments? K-pop and K-dramas.

What is Soft Power?

Soft Power is the ability to showcase positive opinion of the values and culture of one’s own country in the eyes of other nations, without the use of force, but by mobilizing one’s own cultural resources. It is the ability to shape attitudes and preferences over a long time period.

For instance, it was not the military of the USA that made the ‘American’ culture and lifestyle the ideal one, it was equally the contribution of their companies, universities and entertainment industry, amongst other things, that had sold ‘the American dream’ and made it attractive.

We didn’t start wearing jeans and eating at McDonalds just one fine day, and it was definitely not their Army that forced us into doing it.

It was American soft power that gave its companies an edge over others companies, in international markets.

Similarly, South Korea has been exporting its culture since the beginning of the 21st century and the sustained efforts of the Korean government is showing results now.

Also Read: In Pics: Biggest K-Pop Band BTS’ Fans Launch A Stunning ‘BTS Train’ In Seoul

Hard work pays

K-pop/K-drama fans have a more positive perception of Korea, are more likely to buy Korean products and will have Korea as their travel destination.

It might also include buying a Hyundai car or a Samsung phone because the K-drama you were watching promoted it, or even investing in Korea or Korean companies. This is how soft power influences our behaviour.

In fact, perception management via the Hallyu wave has influenced East and Pacific Asian society, they now serve as the biggest markets for South Korea.

Before this, countries like Japan and Vietnam had a negative image of Korea while the rest of the countries had no image of Korea at all.


BTS is a shining example of Korean soft power and a manifestation of the success of Korea’s cultural export. I probably don’t even need to introduce them now.

It is believed that the boy band adds $3.6 billion to the South Korean economy annually, I firmly believe their contribution will increase multifold in 2019.

According to a Korean news outlet, BTS had earned a profit of $88 million in 2018 (by October)! This is a record of sorts.

In 2017, 7% of tourists who visited South Korea mentioned BTS as the reason of their visit. And that was 2017, the beginning of the Love Yourself era, imagine what this percentage must have jumped to in 2019.

No wonder they were made Seoul’s Honorary Tourism Ambassadors.

The members of BTS were awarded South Korea’s Hwagwan Orders of Cultural Merit for their efforts to spread the Korean culture for all the right reasons.

I even tried to learn Korean just to understand them and their music better! Not to mention their enormous fanbase and an unending list of records they keep making and breaking.

Their sincere efforts to connect with ARMY (their fan base) has been immensely successful in building people-to-people contact.

In fact, it is not just BTS (through Bangtang Bomb and their Twitter account) who have succeeded in this sphere, there are several other K-pop groups who try to do the same.

Be it BlackPink’s ‘BlackPink Diaries’ and ‘BlackPink House’ or NCT’s ‘NCT Daily’, fans don’t just get to know a lot about these fans, but also about the Korean culture and norms, eating habits, etc through this.

India’s cultural export

India too has exported her culture via Bollywood, her dance, music, food, dresses etc. This is a big reason why India has the high-spirited image that it has on the world stage.

No wonder Trevor Noah thought a dance number was inevitable amidst the India-Pakistan war!

Image Credits: Google Images

Source: The Diplomat, Asia Experts Forum, nextshark.com

Find the blogger @parihar_tweets

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