Whether going to school or work, one can easily notice the effects of Korean sensation in the Philippines. Koreans are almost everywhere—in school and different universities, malls, stores and other recreational places such as parks as well as tourist places. Aside from the Korean music that can be heard on different radio stations as well as on the stereos or CD players of public vehicles, Korean dramas also reached a great fame in the country having their own time slot in different local TV networks. One can also easily spot Filipino teenagers wearing trendy colorful shoes, jackets, large accessories and have unique hairstyles which are usually long and blonde to attain a Korean look and sense of fashion. Hangul (Korean alphabet) characters can be seen written on armchairs inside the classrooms. Because it’s syllabic, students used it to conceal the meaning of Filipino words while some just wrote their names in Korean.

            Indeed, Filipinos, especially teenagers, are so engaged with this Korean fever which continues to spread throughout the country. The Philippines is now one of those countries that were hit by the strong current of the Korean Wave.

The Phenomenal Sensation called Korean Wave

            The exceptional and captivating cultural flow of sudden rise in popularity of Korean popular culture throughout Asia is now called the ‘Korean Wave’. This term refers to the phenomenon of the Korean popular culture which disseminated mainly through the mass media and is enjoying high popularity outside Korea (Yu, 2008). Another term to describe this phenomenal Korean sensation is Hallyu, the Korean pronunciation of Korean Wave which is defined by Korea Tourism Organization (2004) as the recent cultural phenomenon of South Korean pop culture sweeping throughout the world (Kim & Ryoo, 2007). It was coined by People’s Daily, a newspaper in China in its September 30, 2000 edition, when it brought news about an impressive performance of Korean pop music artists. Being the most influential publication in China, the use of the word Hallyu of People’s Daily means that the passion over Korean pop culture had already started in China at that time (Steinberg, 2010). It is unclear though exactly when the term Korean Wave started to become popular among Asians. However, in 1997, when the Korean drama “Star in My Heart” was broadcast in China,Taiwan, Hong Kong and other Asian countries, the public media began recognizing Korean popular culture. It has been the topic for many essays, papers, journals and magazine articles of many scholars and journalists in different parts of Asia (Yu, 2008).

            Korean Wave mainly consists of television dramas, film, pop music, movie stars, animation and comics, including mobile content (cell phones and iPods), video/computer games, as well as the latest fashion, food, home appliances and cosmetics.

            Korean drama can be considered as the one which started the Korean Wave and is one of the main reasons Korean pop culture spread throughout the world.

Dae Jang Geum starred Ji Jin-Hee (left) and Lee Young Ae (right)./ Courtesy of imbc.com

“Winter Sonata” and “Dae Jang Geum” better known in the Philippines as “Endless Love II” and “Jewel in the Palace” respectively are examples of Korean dramas which captured the heart of many Asians especially the Chinese and Japanese. Korean film also contributes to the dissemination of the Korean Wave. “The Way Home” (2002), a touching story of a spoiled boy who visits his deaf grandmother who live in a rural village and “The Host,” a film about a family who runs a kiosk along Seoul’s Han River, are two exceptional movies that became very popular and appealing to the audience. Both television dramas and films serve as captivating introduction to Korean culture. Most of them show the Korean way of living in every scene while some portray the Korean History in a very interesting and entertaining way.

            Korean Wave also includes sounds of pop music, musicals and performances that made Asians idolize Korean artists such as Rain and BoA (“Beat of Angel,” a female singer) as well as Korean bands/groups such as Super Junior and H.O.T. because of their dynamic and unique characteristics.  Korean music contains traditional rhythms that distinguish it from Western music.

Korean band Super Junior./Courtesy of krnloop.wordpress.com

            Being the third-largest producer of animation in the world (Korea Center 2007), South Korea strengthens Hallyu through this field as well. Pucca is one of the most famous Korean-created characters.  Manhwa (Korean word for comic book) which has become increasingly popular in American market and is defined as “graphic novel” is also a part of the Wave (Connor, 2009).

            Korean culture presented in Korean Wave is now also making its way to the copyright industry. The Korea Tourism Organization says that the copyright industry has started a rise-and-fall effect on other industries. An estimated one million tourists visited Korea in 2004 to “ride the Korean Wave.” They visited film locations of their favorite Korean dramas or movies and took part in entertainment related events. The Korea’s tourism industry, as of 2006, has earned more than 1.5 trillion won from such tour products, doubling from 2004’s 740 billion won (Jeong, 2008).

            The Korean Wave has been enormously successful in Asia. It has also broken the barrier of language and culture, as it entered and became a hit in the Middle East market in 2007 (Jeong, 2008). It has been going on for a decade. Although there are some debates and arguments about the slowly fading away of the Korean Wave, it is still unpredictable how long this craze will last. Some say it is also possible that a second wave may come. “As long as the Korean wave enables people to “enjoy dreaming” and to “taste mirages,” it will keep gaining ground, even as a second wave pushes it toward the beach” (Pai, 2008). One sure thing is the fact that it made a big impact making it very significant to the Asian pop cultural background.

The Journey of Korean Wave All the Way to the Philippines

            Hallyu was born in China in 1997 when China Central Television (CC TV-9) signed an important contract for a South Korean drama, “What is Love?”. Several dramas and films followed which resulted in a big impact that can be considered as a turning point to Chinese culture. Even new words ‘Korea-loving people’ which means the frantic people who admire anything Korean,’ and ‘Korea Mania Group’ were created, according to Korea International Trade Association (Kim & Ryoo, 2007).

            “According to Lee (as cited in Shim, 2006), Korean Wave has been brought about by the 1997 Asian economic crisis” (Wee, 2010). Korea was hardly hit by this financial crisis which resulted in its economic downfall. However, Korea’s nationwide campaign to tide over the difficulty enabled the country to clear its debt to the International Monetary Fund ahead of schedule. What was even more exciting was yet to come. Emerging from the financial crisis, Korea went on to surprise its Asian neighbors by creating the Korean Wave, in a graceful manner (Kim & Ryoo, 2007). The said Asia-wide crisis has made Asian buyers prefer Korean programming over other Asian programming such as Japan and Hong Kong, since Korean television dramas were one-fourth of the price of Japanese ones, and one-tenth of the price of Hong Kong television dramas as of 2000 (Wee, 2010). Journalists and columnists argued that after the crisis, the Korean Government had begun targeting the export of Korean popular culture as a new economic initiative (Cai, 2008).

            Indeed, the government of Korea plays a big role in disseminating and promoting Korean Wave. Some said it is the most powerful push for the Korean Wave. The government considered Hallyu as a strategic industry with a hope that it will lead South Korea’s future economic development and will regain the nation’s pride (Kim & Ryoo, 2007). Since late 1990’s, this sensational phenomenon started to hit the headlines in Korea, Korea policy makers saw that the export-oriented economy had found a new overseas market. With the motivation of the extraordinary success of Korean popular cultural products outside Korea, the government selected “cultural technology”, technologies that produce television dramas, films, pop music, computer games, animations, etc., as one of the six key technologies such as IT and BT (Biotechnology) that should lead the Korean economy into the 21st century and an assured huge amount of financial investment and administrative support to domestic cultural industries. The government established the Korea Culture and Content Agency in 2001 for this cause.

            The Korean government has also encouraged content producers to nurture overseas markets by providing financial support. It subsidized 473 million won to independent producers and cable channels for their participation in the international content markets in 2004. Since 2001, the Ministry Culture of Tourism understanding the significance of such marketplace has even hosted an international content market event every year (Chua & Koichi, 2008).

            Aside from this 1997 economic crisis and the support of Korean Government, others argued that international circumstances were the engine behind the Korean Wave.

            Now, Hallyu has spread throughout many countries worldwide. “In Greater China (which includes the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan), Japan, Southeast Asia, India and even in Turkey, whenever you turn on the television you are sure to see a Korean drama. While loyal fans watch Korean films and dramas attentively, love and even shed tears for the characters, business people make money from advertisers. On the streets of major Asian cities, it is easy to spot girls wearing clothes, makeup and hairstyles popularized on Korean television. The boom has spread to food, fashion and computer games, as well as boosting tourist arrivals to Korea. Even learning Korean has become fashionable.” (Cai, 2008) The meaning of the term Korean Wave has now expanded to include the popularity of anything ‘Korean’ including Korean cuisine and Korean language (Kim & Ryoo, 2007).

            “As globalization develops and cultural exchanges become more and more frequent, Asia is no longer dominated by American popular culture.” (Cai, 2008) The internet has also played a major role in the globalization of Korean Wave. According to Kim (2007),Korea is a leading nation in its usage of high technology and telecommunications. Because of the internet, the circulation of Korean audio-visual products (music videos, mp3s) has grown faster; one can access Korean music videos and dramas online, wherever part of the world he or she may be. Korea.net, the official website of the Republic of Korea, even has a separate section solely for entertainment news. Korean entertainment companies even have YouTube channels where they post videos of their artists for promotion (Wee, 2010).

            Now, Korean Wave also invaded Vietnam, Singapore as well as Muslim countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia until it finally entered the Philippines through Korean dramas in 2003 (Kim & Ryoo, 2007).

            Until now, it is still unknown how Korean culture was able to capture the hearts of many Filipinos. Now, Koreans are considered as the new image that Filipinos especially the youth idolize. Filipinos patronize Korean dramas. They regularly watch these ‘Koreanovelas’ (Korea + novella, Latin word for novel). They found Korean music entertaining too, paving the way for their addiction to different Korean boy bands such as Super Junior, U-Kiss and TVXQ.

            Aside from the local celebrities, Filipinos often idolize Hollywood artists, until Mexican telenovelas, Marimar for example, enter our entertainment industry. Mexican superstars like Thalia also made their way to the Philippines. Not too long, their co-Asians’ charm captivated many Filipinos, but Koreans are the most notable among all of them. Even the Korean look which includes Koreans’ sense of fashion and hairstyle became a trend in the Philippines (Kapuso mo Jessica Soho, 2010).

Korean drama Autumn Tale starred Won Bin as Andrew (left), Song Hye-Kyo as Jenny (middle) and Seung-Heon as Johnny (right)./Courtesy ofblog.dramafever.com

Johnny, Jenny and Andrew are just ordinary names for many but can often catch the attention of Filipinos because they are the ones who started the Korean Wave in the Philippines. They are neither artists nor singers. They are the three main characters in the Korean drama “Autumn Tale”, commonly known in the Philippinesas “Endless Love I: Autumn in My Heart”. One of the first Korean dramas that aired in the country.

            The Taiwanese drama “Meteor Garden”, an adaptation of a Japanese manga entitled “Hana Yori Dango” swept through Asia in year 2002. A year later, it was aired in the Philippines paving the way for Chinese dramas to enter local markets. The drama was aired on ABS-CBN Channel 2, one of the country’s biggest broadcasting networks. More Taiwanese dramas soon followed, indicating the start of the “Chinovelas” (Chinese + novella) fever. Facing the risk of losing televiewers, GMA-7, the network’s rival looked elsewhere to discover something that people will find more interesting which can beat ABS-CBN’s Chinese dramas. GMA took a chance on Korean dramas.

            As with what ABS-CBN did with “Meteor Garden”, GMA-7 translated and dubbed “Autumn Story” into Tagalog to give it a local flavor, a practice that the two networks also did with their Mexican dramas before. This time, GMA also changed the names of the characters to make them easier to remember because Filipinos mainly influenced by Western countries, may find it hard to memorize and pronounce complicated Korean names.

            So the character of Yun Joon-suh played by Song Seung-heon became known as Johnny Yun; Choi Eun-suh played by Song Hye Kyo was Jenny Choi; and Han Tae-sukh played by Won Bin was Andrew Han. In late 2003, “Autumn Story” aired locally and is credited with having started the “Koreanovela” phenomenon in the Philippines. The drama has been re-aired for several times and is now currently airing on QTV-11, a sister network of GMA. Until now, “Endless Love I” continues to receive high ratings (Arpon, 2008).

            As Korean Wave continues to cast spell in the Philippines, Filipinos learned to embrace not only Korean dramas, more teenagers and young adults are becoming passionate and dedicated K-pop fans as well.

            Through the internet, Southeast Asian fans including Filipinos as well as those in North America and Europecan get a daily dose of Korean music, dramas and anything that is related to Hallyu. Internet serves as an hourly update about their Korean idols.

            TVXQ, Bing Bang and Super Junior are among the most famous Korean boy bands in the Philippines. Super Junior’s single “Sorry, Sorry” from their third album which was released in 2009 was in the top 10 in the daily countdown in July of the same year on music channel Myx Philippines along with Wonder Girls’ (a Korean singing girl group) “Nobody” which also became hit dance craze in the country.

            The popularity of Super Junior prompted Universal Records Philippines to officially release “Sorry, Sorry” album in the Philippines on September 4, 2009. It was the very first time a Korean album was launched in the Philippines.

            Another Korean group with four members, 2NE1 has achieved its fame among Filipinos because it was mainly fueled by Sandara Park, who became an actress and a singer in the Philippines before she joined the all-female pop group.

            The massive growing and spreading of K-pop in the Philippines can be described as extraordinary, with no K-pop group ever visited the country as part of a concert tour, until Super Junior and FT Island held their concerts in Manila last year after knowing that they had a lot of Filipino fans.

            In addition, Korean albums are not available in music stores in the Philippines so fans need to buy their CDs, DVDs, posters, photo books and other merchandise through online stores, some ask their friends in other countries to help. They have this some sort of a rule that they will only buy original copies and reject illegal, pirated merchandises as a way of showing their support to their idols.

            Because of what the fans called a “complete package” of entertainment that Koreans brought to them, the number of Filipino K-pop fans is becoming bigger and bigger. Filipinos seem not to be concerned about the barrier of language. As they say, music is a universal language and they are embracing K-pop as if they are engaging themselves in a new culture (Hicap, 2009).

A still from the Korean cartoon Olympus Guardian./ Courtesy of dvdasian.com

          Another component of Hallyu, Korean animation, is now raising its status making its way to other foreign countries. Most common themes used by Korean animators are fantasy, epic, and romance. Some have cultural contents that caught the attention of many Asian countries including the Philippines. The Korean television drama Full House which starred by the popular pop idol Rain (Jung Ji Hoon) and Song Hye Kyo and is very popular among Filipinos is actually based on a comic book created by Korean animator Won Su-yeon (Yoon, 2008).

            Korean animation debuted in the Philippines through “Olympus Guardian”, a cartoon based on Greek mythology which was broadcast on QTV-11.

Reasons for Embracing the Korean Wave

            Hallyu gained fame throughout Asia because it represented something that for Asians like Filipinos is closer to home without cultural or ethnic dishonoring of their race and ethnic groups that are often found in cultural products of Western countries. The longing for a normal, ordinary life portrayal yields to the rise of Korean Wave. Although there may be different forms of suffering and unfair treatment in Hallyu dramas and films, these are different from those in theHollywood in which the audience see actual discrimination based on race and ethnicities that are present in the United States.

            Another factor is that the acceptance of Korean Wave in Asia is related to the troubled history of the region. Japanese Colonialism and Chinese invasions in Asia, which are both part of Philippine history, have left deep historical memories in Asians’ mind, making Hallyu a more palatable hegemon in the region. The influence of Korean Wave is much easier to accept than that of other countries that once invaded one’s own nation (Kim & Ryoo, 2007).

            Furthermore, there are certain reasons why Filipinos are interested in Koreanovelas. First is the theme—melodrama with family-centered story lines and history-theme with epic-scale plot. Romantic-comedy also suits the tastes of many Filipinos. Korean drama series will usually feature an ordinary person who encounters a life-changing situation which is presented in a fanciful plot.  Another reason is the Confucian values which place a strong emphasis on family values and true love found in every Korean drama series. Such compelling story lines made Asians love Koreanovelas. Exceptional characters portrayed by great actors and actresses can be considered as a factor also (Kang, 2007). “And the viewers are comfortable with the happy endings and good-versus-evil themes of Korean dramas, which are similar to the nature of telenovelas” (Li, Min, Nishi, & Bui, 2007). These are the things behind the masterful productions of Korean dramas that captured the viewers’ hearts.

            On the other hand, when it comes to Korean pop music according to Jose Wendell Capili, a Filipino pop culture expert, there are four main reasons Filipinos especially the youth are engaged with it. First is the melody. Capili said that even though one cannot understand the lyrics of a song, the melody or the tune is the very first thing that will appeal to the listener. Second is the one who sang the song, a band, a group or a solo singer for example. That is to satisfy not just listeners’ ears but also their eyes. Good sounding music plus good looking singers have a great impact on them. The third reason is the production value. Fans are amazed in how Korean music videos are made. They like the transitions, effects, colorful costumes of the singers as well as the unique concepts of every music video. Last, is what Capili called as “fantasy factor”. According to him,Korea possesses a certain appeal that young Filipinos want to aspire and engaged with. That certain appeal can be what we called the x-factor that young Filipinos see in K-pop as well as Korean dramas, much like a magical attachment to the Korean wave (Kapuso mo, Jessica Soho, 2010).

            Maristela dela Cruz, a first-year college student and a K-pop fanatic, said that it is the amazing choreography of Korean idols plus the beat of the sounds that made her fall in love with Korean music. When it comes to movies, Maristela prefer horror films and she likes those that are produced in Korea. According to her, the effects are great and that made the movie more realistic thus, making it really scary. “Compare to the Philippines, Korea is more advanced when it comes to technology that’s why Koreans are able to make such great effects”, she added. On the other hand, one of her colleagues, Sherwin Saringan is fascinated with Korean dramas. According to him, the unique plot of the story as well as the twists makes Koreanovelas outstanding. Compare to Filipino drama, endings are unpredictable. “You really do not know what will happen next and how the characters will end up (whether they will end up together or not)”, said Sherwin. Jezra Alcantara, another classmate of the two and a K-pop addict as well, said that aside from what Maristela and Sherwin thought, for her it is the appearance or the “look” of Koreans that made them so attractive.

            Hallyu is neither a rejection nor a reaction to United States and other Western-Europe–oriented culture. It represents a new hybrid culture that has captured the influences of both the West and the East. A good example is Rain, a popular Korean male artist who possesses elements of Asian and Korean martial arts and then combined it with Michael Jackson’s moon walk to make his outstanding performance. A nice and skillful mixing and blending of the East and West, and brewing something quite distinct in the end seems to be the winning formula of Hallyu to capture the hearts of Filipinos as well as the other Asians (Kim & Ryoo, 2007).

Rain (Jung Ji-Hoon)./ Courtesy of intobox.com

            When the three college students were asked how Korean Wave affects their lives, they agreed that since they became K-addicts, K-pop and Korean dramas became their inspiration and motivation to go on, facing the challenges of life. Maristela said that whenever she is depressed or in a bad mood she will just listen or watch her K-pop idols to cheer herself up. To Sherwin, the values and lessons that Korean dramas brought to him made him more equipped as he continue to live his life. Maristela and Jezra also attend K-pop events and fan gatherings. They sacrifice their own allowance to buy albums, magazines and other collectibles of their idols. In an album launch, they need to be early to get in the first fifty slots so they can get freebies such as posters. Maris attended the concert of Super Junior in Manila last April. For her, it is a once in a life-time experience that she must not let go. Actually, this coming February 26, Super Junior will be having their second concert in the Philippines, and as expected Maris already had her ticket. She also encouraged her friends to love K-pop as well. Like other K-pop and K-drama fans, to go to South Korea is one of the dreams or rather plans of the three after graduating. For them, to be with their idols even in just a day is a dream come true. When asked, how long are they going to be a K-addict, they cannot give the precise answer because the truth is they really do not know. One sure thing is the memories of Korean wave will remain even as they grow older because their blood as K-pop fan will still be there.

A Peek in the World of K-addicts

            Due to the strong domination of K-pop bands and groups, Filipinos have established their own fan clubs to show their adoration and full support to Super Junior, TVXQ, Girls Generation, Wonder Girls, Big Bang and SS501.

            Aside from interacting in their own forums, blogs and networking sites, they also meet regularly, hold fan gatherings and activities and devotedly buy CD’s, photo books, T-shirts and other merchandise of their idols.

            Since 2006, the TVXQ fan club holds gatherings and meetings every year. These activities are sponsored by the fan club’s core members who spent their own money to buy balloons, foods and to prepare for an audio-visual presentation just to make the event successful. From only 40 people that attended the first meeting, Cassiopeia Philippines has now more than 1,000 members and is growing as more Filipino teenagers join the organization.

Fan club members of Cassiopeia Philippines, Super Junior United Philippines and Girls Generation Philippines show their idols’ CDs, DVDs, photo books and other mementos. / Courtesy of Jonathan Hicap

            Cassiopeia Philippines, Super Junior United Philippines and Girls Generation Philippines are some of the numerous K-pop group fan clubs in thePhilippines. Cassiopeia Philippines is the Filipino fan club of Korean boy band TVXQ or DBSK. The group adopted the name Cassiopeia, the name of TVXQ’s Korea-based fan club that is said to have about 800,000 members. Michelle Angela Umali, a member of the Cassiopeia Philippines core group, said that the increasing number of TVXQ fans in the Philippines driven them to establish the fan club.

            Cassiopeia Philippines has its own web site and accounts on Twitter, Multiply, Friendster, YouTube, Facebook and Yahoo!

            Aside from their local groups, Filipino Korean music fans are also members of international fan clubs and Internet forums. Soompi (www.soompi.com), for instance, is the biggest English-language K-pop fan site. The club’s members come from the United States, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. Started in 1998, Soompi now has more than 547,000 registered members, about 1.2 million unique visitors and 30 million page views monthly. Approximately 5 percent (about 60,000) of visitors are from the Philippines, but the number is still increasing. A Soompi representative said they hope that they should be able to focus on the growth of K-pop mania in the Philippines.

Undoubtedly, K-pop has a great influence among young Filipinos. Some even go as far as attending concerts abroad, in South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand for instance just to see their idols in person and to watch them perform onstage (Hicap, 2009). One of them is Paola Ebora, a journalism student and a member of Cassiopeia Philippines who has an item collection of her favorite K-Pop band that is already at 200 (Wee, 2010). Her addiction led her to go toKorea for an exchange student program even though the subjects she took do not gain her academic credit. She also studied basic conversational Korean. According to Paola,Korea is a “mecca” for any K-pop fan. “Seeing the artists in person performing onstage, hearing their songs and seeing their faces on magazines and television…being in Korea was a dream come true,” she said. In her trip, she joined a TVXQ fan event where she was the only foreign fan. Paola saw her idols up close and she even had the chance to take a picture with them (Arpon, 2008).

            On the other hand, Sigrid Santos, a fourth-year college student said that Korean drama has a big impact on her. She cannot explain why she loves Koreanovelas. She believes that the reason for loving is loving without reason, loving Korean dramas seems to be like that too. She owns two photo albums of her favorite Korean dramas. Both are made with efforts and presented beautifully. She collects pins, posters and magazines of her favorite Korean artists. She also made bookmarks and calendars and ordered water bottle and wrist watch, with her idols’ pictures on them. She does not know the exact amount she spent for these. For her, it does not matter how much money it will cost as long as she is happy in collecting these items.

            The lessons she learned from Koreanovelas is priceless, according to her. “Korean dramas will teach you how to make your life more colorful and will leave a mark on your mind,” said Sigrid. She likes romantic-comedy K-drama the most, but her favorite is the historical drama Queen Seon Deok (QSD). “It changed my views in life and made me a more mature person,” she said. According to Sigrid, Queen Seon Deok is a world-class drama with amazing story line. “After watching QSD, you will not just pay attention to what is written in history books, you will go beyond as far as you could to know the truth,” Sigrid added.

            “People will never understand K-addicts’ strong devotion to Korean dramas or K-pop unless they will engage themselves into it too,” Sigrid said as her closing statement.

The Effects of Korean Wave to Philippine Culture and Society

            As the Korean Wave sweeps the Philippines, the number of Korean nationals in the country continues to get bigger and bigger. Korean emigrants provide an important encouragement to the economy of the Philippines. They are estimated to spend between US$800 and $1000 per month, making a total contribution of over $1 billion per year in consumer spending (“Korean in the Philippines”, 2010). “The Philippines and Korea are linked by flows and counter flows of people,” said Dr. Virginia Miralao of the Philippine Social Science Council in a study on the Korean culture dispersion in the Philippines. One reason of increasing number of Koreans in the country is the geographic proximity of the two nations. Another is because Koreans want to receive the most famous Philippine hospitality (Meinardus, 2005). The Korean community in the Philippines had little influence on Philippine society until the late 1980s, when the Korean wave started. They continue to be seen as a closed group by Filipinos. In addition, Filipinos in general perceive South Korean migration to the Philippines a strange thing, as it goes against the pattern more familiar to their own experience, that of people from developing countries migrating to more developed ones.

            As of 2007, 15% of all foreign visitors to the Philippinesare Koreans. As recently as 1992, the annual number of South Korean visitors arriving in the Philippines was just 26,000; however, that expanded over seven times to about 180,000 by 1997, and then to 303,867 by 2003. Tourism arrivals continued to grow rapidly, to 570,000 in 2006. At this point South Korean tourists formed a larger group than American tourists for the first time, and then to 650,000 by 2008. As of 2007, Korean Air, Asiana Airlines, and Philippine Airlines each offered one daily flight between Manila and Seoul.

            As the number of Korean pop fans increases, Manila is now seen to have that Seoul marks to cater K-pop fanatics. There are three Korean fixes that can be found in Manila. First is the K-pop fix. One can easily find a “noraebang” or KTV’s like Platinum KTV where K-pop fanatics can sing their favorite song hits. There are also numerous schools and universities which offer Korean Language classes. Korean Language Culture (KLC) TrainingCenterin Guadalupe Nuevo, Makati and the Department of Linguistics, U.P. Diliman are some of those institutions that teach Hangul. Next is the Kikay fix. When it comes to Korean fashion, one can also find stores like Forever21 that sell Korean outfits inside Manila. Beauty shops and salons (Park Jun’s Beauty Lab, Lee Chul Hair Kerker and Etude House to name a few) offering a K-pop look can also be found.  Last is the food fix. Korean meal shops are just around the corners. Filipino won’t have to go to Korea to taste kimchi. Korean restaurants and groceries are always there to cater those Filipino Korean fanatics who idolize even their idols’ favorite foods (Bautista, 2010).

Koreatown in Makati, Metro Manila./ Courtesy of retire-abroad.org

There are hotels and many restaurants that provide Korean food, alcoholic beverages and Korean entertainment at night. There is even a place in Metro Manila, in Barangay Poblacion, Makati to be specific, which is called Koreatown, much more like a Korean version of Binondo or Chinatown. Outside Manila, many Koreans also reside in provincial cities such as Clark, Subic, Davao, and Baguio (“Korean in the Philippines”, 2010). As a result of all these, the market is growing. This Korean invasion in the Philippinesas explained by Raul Palabrica in a news article is motivated by the Korean immigrants’ perception that the Philippines promises “a good future for trade and commerce.” It is hard to overlook the growing number of Korean restaurants, groceries and other business establishments in Manila, Cebu and other parts of the Philippines. Dr. In-jin Yoon, the president of the Korean Migration Research Network and one of the leading scholars of Korean diaspora studies, said that another reason is due to religion. According to him, when Koreans emigrate they build their own churches and this becomes the center of religious as well as social activities. The Roman Catholic clergy doubts the real objectives of these activities and is also dismayed that many mostly needy Filipinos who go to Korean churches to receive meals are open to the foreigners (Meinardus, 2005).

            Aside from society and economy, Korean Wave has its impact on the Philippines own culture. It’s been years since the local music industry seems to lie low because of the spreading influence of foreign music. In radios, television or even in record bars, nobody is going to disagree that Filipinos patronize songs from other countries more than Filipino music. Filipino great artists and composers are the ones who are most affected by this declining music industry. Ogie Alcasid, a Filipino singer and composer, is disappointed that Korean music and songs are even more popular than Original Pilipino Music (OPM) in the Philippines, itself.  He hopes that this will change if Filipino music and songs will be promoted or played more often in radio stations.

            Filipinos’ desire for K-pop music leads to the birth of P-pop or Pinoy Pop. The group named XLR8 is the first ever P-pop group in the Philippines. It is said that their members underwent extreme audition to enter the group. According to its members, for XLR8 to be able to enter the tight competition in music industry they just go with what is trendy like using a mix of Tagalog and English (Taglish) language in lyrics of their songs. However, the group received criticisms because of their looks and music which seem to imitate those of K-pop. It is said that they are just copycats and they do not contribute to uplift OPM. MM, a member of XLR8, said that they do not mean to imitate others; they just wear clothes and have their hair according to what is trendy especially for Asians. No matter what will others say, XLR8 will continue to sing and dance. The more important thing according to its members is that even in a small way they help to strengthen OPM (Kapuso mo, Jessica Soho, 2010).

            Filipinos, influenced by K-pop or Korean dramas, tend to compare Philippine cultural products to those of Korea. A lot of them are criticizing Filipino drama, movies or music after watching or listening to these Korean things. They seem to realize that the Philippines lacks something that the Korea has.

            Maristela said that Filipino horror films that were supposed to be scary turned out as comedy movies because of unrealistic effects. She is also against the birth of P-pop (Pinoy Pop). XLR8, for Maris and Jezra, is nothing but a pirated version of their favorite Korean bands. They said it has no originality, and that its members who dress like Koreans and sing some familiar Korean beats are just trying hard to imitate their idols. “Korean fashion suits only Koreans,” said Maristela.

            For Sherwin, Filipino dramas are baduy, revolving with the same plot and having repeated twists. The ending is so predictable, according to him. He also does not like the Filipino drama remakes of old movies. Just like Sherwin, Maristela does not like local dramas as well, especially the remakes of Koreanovelas. For her, the Filipino version is not good and cannot be compared to the original Korean one.

            “Korean dramas were such a hit that in 2008, the first Philippine remake of a Korean drama (My Girl) was aired in ABS-CBN2, followed by rival network station GMA7 with their remake of ‘My Name is Kim Sam Soon’ (Ako si Kim Sam Soon) on 2009. Due to the success of this, more Korean dramas were remade by Philippine network stations (i.e. Lovers in Paris, Stairway to Heaven, and Full House, all in 2009), but not without adding Filipino flavor in them.” (Wee, 2010) There is even a drama in GMA-7 entitled “Koreana” which revolves on the story of a Korean girl as she finds her own identity. This is probably done to quench the Koranovela thirst of Filipinos by offering an original local product.

            “In response to the Filipinos growing addiction towards K-pop, a Filipino pop girl group called the Pop Girls debuted late last year (2009), following the concept of K-pop girl groups. This elicited a variety of responses from the Filipino audience, especially Filipino K-pop fans. Some were repulsive about another ‘copy’, while some felt glad about the brave move of the Philippine music industry (Viva Entertainment.com). The overall appeal and export competence of the group, however, has yet to be tested.” (Wee, 2010)

            “The Korean wave brought forth among its consumers the curiosity towards Korean culture. In effect, K-pop fans want to study the Korean language in order to break the language barrier. In fact, there are a growing number of Korean language schools in the Philippines. The Filipino fans not only developed an interest in the Korean language but also a likeness towards Korean fashion. In another episode of the aforementioned magazine show which featured Korean hairstylists in the Philippines, a fan had her hair cut like Tiffany’s (of the K-pop girl group Girls’ Generation or So Nyuh Shi Dae), her idol. In the social networking site multiply, there is a growing population of online shops which sell Korean clothes. This, of course, would not have grown if not for the product demand. This type of consumerism is a clear indication of how Korean stars have had a big impact on Philippine consumer culture, affecting the Filipino’s preferences when it comes to the consumption of cultural goods.” (Wee, 2010)

            “Also, the Filipino cultural responses elicited from the Korean wave are indications of another effect of globalization, which is the hybridization of cultural products to sustain local identities in the global context. The presence of Korean drama remakes and the Pop Girls is another interesting point in the Philippine entertainment scene. This has sprouted from the Philippine entertainment scene’s desire to gain more revenue through a tried-and-tested hit formula. Philippine cultural products appear to be a combination of the current global trend that is Korean, and of Philippine culture itself.” (Wee, 2010)


            There are two ways to view the Korean Wave. First is to see the disadvantages like how patronizing cultural products of other countries rather than those of the Philippines itself is just showing that Filipinos are unpatriotic, how Korean music only pushes Filipino artists further down the food chain, which leads to the declining of the local music industry . However, a better, more optimistic way to look at the situation is to think of the Korean Wave as competitive inspiration much more like a challenge. Korea is a small country in Asia, yet its products appeal globally and are able to compete with the Western cultural products, despite English being the international language (Tantengco, 2010). According to Cristina Tantengco (2010), little by little, the Philippines is going to reach Korea’s position.


Alcantara, J.  (2011, February 15).  Korean pop music fan.  Interview.

Baustista, K. (2010, November).  Seoulsearching in Manila.  Sparkling: Life in K-Pop color, p. 48-50.

Cai, J.  (2008, August).  China’s first taste of Korean Wave.  Korea, p. 13-15.

Chua, B., & KoichiI.(Eds.).  (2008).  East Asian pop ­culture: Analysing the Korean wave. Aberdeen:Hong KongUniversity Press.

Connor, M. (Ed.).  (2009).  The Koreas.  ABC-CLIO, LLC:California

Dela Cruz, M.  (2011, February 15).  Korean pop music fan.  Interview.

Gelera R. (Director).  (2010, April 17).  K-Pop Craze in the Philippines [Television series episode segment].  In Torres, M.D. (Executive Producer), Kapuso mo, Jessica Soho.  Manila: GMA-7.

Gelera R. (Director).  (2010, August 21).  P-Pop versus foreign music [Television series episode segment.  In Torres, M.D. (Executive Producer), Kapuso mo, Jessica Soho. Manila: GMA-7.

Hicap, J.  (2009, September 6).  Filipinos get hooked on K-pop craze.  The Korea Times.  Retrieved fromhttp://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2009/10/117_51347.html.

Jeong, H.  (2008, March).  Korea’s copyright industry taps into global market: The Korean wave spurs strong growth in the sector.  Korea Policy Review, p. 38-40.

Kang, M.  (2007).  A Korean phenomenon: TV dramas take on a live of their own. Koreana, 21(4), p. 8-13.

Kim, E. M., & Ryoo, J.  (2007).  South Korean culture goes global: K-pop and the Korean Wave.  Korean Social Science Journal, 34(1), p. 117-147.

KoreaHerald.  (2008).  Korean wave (Vol. 5 of Insight into Korea).  Gyeonggi-do: Jimoondang.

Koreans in the Philippines.  (2010).  In Wikipedia.  Retrieved January 27, 2011, fromhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koreans_in_the_Philippines.

Li S. L., Min W., Nishi M., & Bui M. H.  (2007) Growing popularity of Korean dramas among viewers worldwide.  Koreana, 21(4), p. 22-33.

Meinardus, R.  (2005, December 15).  The “Korean wave” in the Philippines.  KoreaTimes.  Retrieved from http://www.fnf.org.ph/liberalopinion/korean-wave-in-the-philippines.htm.

Pai, J.  (2008, March).  Tasting the mirage-like ‘Korean wave’.  Korea Policy Review, p.42-44.

Santos, S.  (2011, February 16). Korean drama fan.  Interview.

Saringan, S.  (2011, February 15).  Korean drama fan.  Interview.

Steinberg, D.I.(Ed.).  (2010).  Korea’s changing roles in Southeast Asia: Expanding influence and relations.  Panjang: ISEAS.

Tantengco, C.  (2010, July 27).  Riding the Korean wave: The Philippine context and what it all means.  Philippine Online Chronicles.  Retrieved January 27, 2011, fromhttp://www.thepoc.net/thepoc-features/metakritiko/pop-culture/8961-riding-the-korean-wave-the-philippine-context-and-what-it-all-means.html.

Wee, R. (2010, March 26).  Korean ‘cultonomics’ and the Korean wave in the Philippines.  Message posted to http://weeroberto.wordpress.com.

Yoon, S.  (2008, February).  Korean cartoons grow up and into lucrative animation industry.  Korea Policy Review, p. 58-59.

All rights reserved. If you want to use this as a reference, kindly fill out this form so I can contact you directly. By doing so, you’ll also know what/who are the ones you should give credits to. Thanks!