Korean Wave Landed on You
by Alex Sevilla
In the early 2000’s, we were introduced to “Tagalized” Korean dramas on primetime TV. Among the shows broadcast on national TV were the Endless Love series, Jewel in the Palace, and Lovers in Paris. We may not have known it then, but that started the Korean/Hallyu Wave in the Philippines.
Many of the OG K-Drama fans would even buy DVD copies of their favorite shows. It must be pointed out that online streaming platforms weren’t really accessible to us at that time, so we couldn’t conveniently (and legally) stream these shows. These days, Netflix, VUI, Rakuten Viki, and more offer a wide variety of Korean shows (both completed and ongoing) to satisfy the fascination of the fans.
Of course, the Hallyu Wave in the Philippines would not be as influential as it is now without the K-Pop stan culture. It generally started with the second generation K-Pop idols, which included groups like Super Junior, Bigbang, Wonder Girls, and Girls’ Generation. These are just a few of the groups who contributed greatly to the eventual global dominance of K-Pop.
We’ve also seen more and more Korean products in the country — from samgyeopsal restaurants to Korean noodles on the shelves of big supermarkets, and Korean skin care products. In the past, these were usually just found in small Korean specialty shops. Now, Korean products are practically everywhere and everyone seems to be going crazy over them.
Through the Pandemic
The pandemic has not stopped the growing influence of South Korean pop culture in the Philippines. It actually reached a wider audience since the social isolation had us try and discover new things.
For instance, the supply for K-Dramas and variety shows since the start of the pandemic has been non-stop. Crash Landing on You became one of the trending shows during this period. While the filming in other parts of the world halted, the shoots for these shows did not. It’s all thanks to the health protocols that are strictly observed in their country and the efficient leadership of their government. While the new recruits are enjoying the classics like My Love from the Stars, Descendants of the Sun, and Goblin, the rest of the fans were also getting fresh content through It’s Okay To Not Be Okay, Hospital Playlist, and Start Up.
The K-Pop business, on the other hand, shifted to a platform wherein their audience can continuously engage with their favorite artists even at a distance. They had online concerts. Just recently, BTS delighted their ARMY fans by offering for the second year, the BangBangCon 2021 — a seven-hour, online-only marathon of their past concerts and fan meet-and-greet.
It is also worth noting that Pinoy K-Pop stans usually band together for charity programs to celebrate their idol’s anniversary or birth dates. However, last year, different fandoms in the Philippines used their huge following to help those affected by COVID-19 pandemic, the Taal eruption, typhoons, and other disasters.
Due to restrictions, restaurants were forced to be creative in order for their businesses to survive. The hour-long queues in our favorite samgyeopsal places led to “Samgyup sa Bahay,” where people buy ready-to-cook meat strips and side dishes that they themselves can prepare at home.
The added time we spent at home also brought out the inner chefs in us. Many of those who were exploring the kitchen for the first time began by taking our cue from South Korean YouTubers and preparing Dalgona coffee. Next, we began working on Korean-inspired dishes.
Korean Wave at NLEX Marketplace
The Hallyu Wave is everywhere, even in NLEX. We usually see Facebook posts from our officemates about their favorite K-Drama and K-Pop idols. Now, on the NLEX Marketplace, we can see there are several products available for the Korean fans.
Aileen Simbul (Asset Management Division) started her pasabuy business with just Japanese products, but now she also offers K-Pop merch and products. She explained: “Sobrang trendy kasi ngayon ng mga Korean products lalo na sa mga millennials.” Aileen added that she herself also uses the Korean products that she sells.
When asked about the bestselling item in her store, Aileen listed BTS merchandise, K-Beauty products, and Korean noodles. “Mabenta talaga ang mga Korean products, lalo sa mga BTS fans,” she revealed. “Sobrang patok and they are willing to spend for the merch talaga. Ang mamahal kasi nung iba.“
Then we have Camille Rose Ignacio–Gunita (Revenue Assurance) who made money out of her pandemic cravings. She decided to create her own kimbap since there is none available in the market due to lockdown. A month later, she posted it on NLEX Marketplace and started taking orders from our officemates. “May mga natuwa kasi nagagawa ko siya before ako pumasok sa office. Proud ako kasi nagaya ko yung Kewpie brand na roasted seasame dressing.”
Camille shared that while she is not into K-Drama, she really likes Korean food with kimchi as her favorite.
To sum it all up, the Korean Wave found a spot in the Filipino household because it brought in new ideas. They offered fresh takes on common themes. The unusual content of K-Dramas and variety shows helped a lot of people deal with their anxiety during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
The ability of K-Pop groups to bring different content to the table without foregoing the musicality make us want to stan even more.
As such, many Filipinos want to learn the language and have listed South Korea as their top travel destination after the pandemic.
We’ve barely scratched the surface of the Korean Wave’s influence to Filipinos. We can observe some similarities in our colonial history and traditional cultural values, which makes it more relatable for us.
But is there a need to analyze why Filipinos love Korean culture? The relief and comfort that all things Korean has brought to so many of us during this challenging time should be reason enough.
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