India’s Obsession With Everything K
Unraveling the secret behind India’s love for South Korean culture by Angira Lahiri, Associate Planning Director
Ask any 90s kid what K drama means to them; and they will start to roll their eyes & talk incessantly about how obsessed everyone was back then with soap dramas, all starting with K, where Indian plastic surgeons set standards for the Kardashians to follow.
I particularly remember the overwhelming chants of “Bring back Mihir Virani” by Indian aunties, including my mother sadly. Those were the days! However, the obsession with everything K is still very much persistent today in India. Just that this time we have spread our love outwards, more precisely eastwards, like a ‘Dynamite’.
Well, the influence of Korea in Indian consumerism has been evident with the rise in popularity of brands like LG, Hyundai, Samsung & more recently Kia. But, the love for Korean cinema, music, art & food remained as a subculture in India.
However, in the past few years, the Korean soft power has gained exponential prominence amongst Indian youth ‘Oppa Gangnam Style’. In fact, when Spotify was launched in India #NamasteBTS was a top trend. Also, BTS ranks as one of the top 5 & the only non-Indian most listened to artists in Spotify India. This is a clear indicator of India being hit by what is known as ‘Hallyu’ or the Korean cultural wave.
I remember binging on K dramas like Boys before flowers, A Millionaire’s First Love, Playful Kiss innocently before being told “You know nothing, Jon Snow”. And, how true was Ygritte. I was amongst the early adopters of Hallyu in India & had no idea about it. At one point I was so obsessed with the Korean culture that I had written love letters to Kim Joon, in KOREAN.
In 2012 there was no Duolingo to help me. This was sheer hard work. And that is the level of Korean star fandom today, if not more. Deepshikha Chakroborty, age 15, from Kolkata says she can now grasp most of K-drama content without subtitles.
As a former Korean learner, I can vouch that it is an accomplished feat because Korean is a difficult language to learn. She also says that she wants to pursue her higher studies at Seoul National University & eventually become the liaison for Big Hit Entertainment in India. Her friends too share similar dreams.
So, it’s safe to assume that for these googly-eyed K smitten teenagers the influence of Hallyu is making them seriously consider other important life milestones like education & profession in Korea. America, ‘How you like that?’.
A few days back, #SexiestManJungkook was trending on Twitter after the BTS member was honored by People’s Magazine with the title of Sexiest International Man Alive 2020.
For a lot of Indians who believe in the conventional notion of beauty, the news was a hard to swallow pill. But what the Korean stars are inculcating in the younger generations is that beauty is fluid & makeup is genderless. One doesn’t need a bucket full of beard on the face to be called a man or a ‘boy in love’.
Six years ago, I remember that most of my guy friends thought they were impervious to the sun. But today, thanks to Hallyu, a 10 step skincare routine has been accepted wholeheartedly by both genders to get that alluring Korean glass skin. Beauty regimes of K stars are diligently followed & Korean ingredients in skincare like Jeju seaweed, tiger grass, snail secretion, noni, bamboo extract have become a common parlance today.
What has helped amplify the love for Korea is also technology. On an app trail of a K-pop fan’s smartphone, I discovered certain names which frankly I had never heard of. Weverse, a community app that connects K pop bands & musicians with fans around the globe.
Kakaostory, a social network platform aka Korean Facebook. Mmeff, an app to make Korean friends & probably date as well. Ablo, an app similar to Mmeff. And Rakuten Viki, to watch all sorts of K-drama to one’s heart’s content. There are a few other apps like Dramacool & iQIYI, but those majorly focus on C dramas.
So, even if aficionados of all things K do not find like-minded people around them locally or even nationally, the technological infrastructure support is so robustly built by Korean companies that every intersection point increases the fandom. And this drives home the message that Hallyu is here to stay, ‘ah yeah, ah yeah’.