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Culture of Korea

For many Westerners, Psy's "Gangnam Style" is viewed as comedic relief coupled with a catchy chorus and trendy choreography. However, for Korea, "Gangnam Style" was the first song to push open the international door for K-pop. This development actually shocked many Koreans who predicted that Psy's future success would be bleak at best (largely for superficial reasons). Yet, in the U.S., Psy had become a phenomenon. Many Americans could sympathize with Psy's "underdog" story of success and his unconventional, carefree attitude. 

Still, what many may not know is that Psy's music video for "Gangnam Style" is riddled with [satirical] aspects of Korean life and culture, such as:

  • Sunbathing in a public park rather than a lavish beach.
  • Glamorous runway-walks through trash.
  • Visiting a sauna with mobsters.
  • Dancing on a senior-citizen tour bus.
  • Taking "shots" of coffee.
  • Criticism of the growing materialism in areas such as Gangnam.

Though unprecedented, "Gangnam Style" gave Westerners a glimpse of Korea outside of the drone typically ascribed in textbooks. Perhaps this lighthearted, yet realistic, aspect of Korean culture has contributed to its modern global success.

Shortly after the release of "Gangnam Style" in 2012, the new K-pop group Bangtan Sonyeondan (방탄소년단), aka BTS, debuted in 2013. Currently, BTS has become one of the most popular K-pop groups, in addition to being one of the most successful on an international scale. BTS uses their music to expose societal issues in Korea (such as the stress faced by Korean students), and encourage their fans to love themselves, speak themselves, and follow their dreams. 

On top of being the first K-pop group to top the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, perform at the American Music Awards, and take home an award from the Billboard Music Awards—the members of BTS were chosen as one of Time Magazine's "Next Generation Leaders" in 2018.


Korea aka The Kingdom of Drama

  • 1960s: 
    • Televisions were a luxury in Korea, only a small percentage of people owned one.
    • The content shown on these televisions were controlled by the military government.
    • 1962: the first TV drama "Backstreet of Seoul" was released.
  • 1970s:
    • More families were able to own televisions.
    • Dramas "Assi" and "Yeoro" are released, based on Japanese colonialism. 
  • 1980s:
    • A variety of dramas began to appear, including "Sageuk".
  • 1990s:
    • Intense competition among TV networks began.
    • Government restrictions relaxed. 
    • "Eyes of Dawn" became the first big budget blockbuster drama. 
  • 2000s: 
    • Online video services began to grow.
    • More focus on which country will watch each drama.


K-drama available at FIU Libraries


Click the image above to access more than 400 classic Korean films online, for free!