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Hallyu congress casts academic eye on Korean Wave

The first day of the two-day First World Congress for Hallyu commenced on Friday, gathering scholars, diplomats, culture ministry officials and experts in Korean culture studies from 26 countries to address the latest developments in the Korean Wave.

“As I’m sure you all already know, hallyu has become a global cultural icon,” said Park Gil-sung, president of the World Association for Hallyu Studies, in his opening remarks. “Hallyu is not something that should be limited to the fields of business management, but should now be considered for its academic value.”

Keynote speaker Keith Howard of the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies spoke on the foundations of hallyu and the coming of age of K-pop, on Friday at the Centennial Memorial Samsung Hall at Korea University’s Anam Campus.

“We are, collectively, still struggling to come to terms with hallyu, Korean Wave,” said Howard. “Our accounts do, though, agree of key moments in the Korean Wave: 1999, when the term hallyu began to be used; 2003, when ‘Winter Sonata’ reached Japan; 2008 or shortly after, when Korean pop again moved into a global frame; and 2012 as the date when Psy conquered YouTube.”

Howard claimed that the adaptation and development of Korean pop over the past decade to where the country’s music was no longer seen as playing “catch-up” to the U.S. and Europe ― such as the introduction of acts like Seo Taiji and the Boys and H.O.T ― had allowed the industry to grow to international status.

“Whatever our perspective, though, let us start with a celebration: a celebration of those in the cultural industries who in recent years have made Korea cool,” he said.

“And, as Korea has become cool, universities around the globe have seen increases in student demand for Korea-related courses. So, as a university professor ... thank you for the Korean Wave.”

The WAHS hosted the first World Congress for Hallyu with the aim of investigating hallyu as a force that should be pursued as an academic study.

The inaugural day of the event included a wide range of Korean Wave topics including talks on “Hallyu and Religious Philosophy,” “K-pop Dynamics,” “Hallyu and Global Cultural Community” and “Hallyu and Ethics.”

By Julie Jackson (