Sunday, August 3, 2014

South Korean Cool


"In an ad that aired in Thailand last year, a boy trying to impress a girl takes a sip of Lipton iced tea. He suddenly starts speaking Korean. The girl, naturally, falls for him. “What’s not cool about Korea?” asks Jeff Yang, a Chinese American who writes about Asian culture. “It’s a land of sleek consumer electronics, long-legged and beautiful women, men who combine soulfulness and emotion with manly good looks.”  
The anecdote and observation come from Euny Hong’s The Birth of Korean Cool, an insightful book about the country’s plan to use its pop culture as a means to achieve international superpowerdom. In Asia and many other places—no, not yet America—South Korea is increasingly hip."
As the article notes, the new fascination with South Korea is still mostly an Asian phenomenon. 

I wish it were otherwise. In place of our media's bizarre obsession with LGBT issues (ex: celebrity "coming outs"), it might do more to promote a grassroots interest in Asia, a part of the world that many of us now compete with (or work for) in our economic lives.

Personal note: My father was stationed in South Korea as a U.S. soldier in 1966, a little more than a decade after the end of the Korean War. The country was still desperately poor then. 

In less than 50 years, South Korea has gone from one of the poorest countries on earth to one of the more prosperous. That fact alone makes South Korea worth studying.