The Korea Herald


Hallyu guru Sam Richards attributes K-content's success to Korean values

By Lim Jae-seong

Published : June 26, 2024 - 15:10

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Professor Sam Richards gives a speech at Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul on Tuesday. (Lim Jae-seong/The Korea Herald) Professor Sam Richards gives a speech at Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul on Tuesday. (Lim Jae-seong/The Korea Herald)

The sense of community embedded in Korean culture is the power behind the popularity of Korean cultural content worldwide, sociologist Sam Richards emphasized during a lecture at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul on Tuesday.

The award-winning Pennsylvania State University professor discussed the foundations of Korean content penetrating the world under the theme of “Korea’s Characteristics and Values,” which was held as a program of Sungkyun-Asian Humanities Academy at Sungkyunkwan University.

Richards teaches about race and cultural relations to nearly 800 students each semester. His class, livestreamed through his YouTube channel “SOC 119,” was broadcast on television under the title “You Can’t Say That,” winning an Emmy Award in 2018. The professor is also known to the Korean public for heralding the boom of Korean content in 2018.

“(Koreans think) I need to improve this issue or this thing, whatever it is. So that I can be a contributing member of my groups and my communities,” the professor said at the lecture. He went on to explain that when a problem arises, Koreans are "more inclined" to "take ownership of (the) problem."

The sociologist also compared social problems such as gun violence, homelessness and drugs seen in Korea and other countries, most frequently in his home the United States, to show how Koreans tend to emphasize the negative traits of their society. The professor attributes this tendency to their community-oriented values.

“What you've learned is to make harmony, a harmonious society requires a level of self-reflection and self-criticism,” he said, comparing the anxiety of Koreans to “fish (that) do not understand water they live in.”

When asked for advice in making content that earns global appreciation from a speech program Sebasi Talk’s Production Director Koo Bum-jun, who was part of an expert panel, Richards advised continuing to tell Korea’s own stories.

“K-pop, K-film, K-drama: They are all about the thread. The mysterious thread that is woven into all of these things that are Korean. … Korea is a nation that has its fans and like, not just K pop, not just K drama, not just certain food dishes, the country itself has fans,” Sam Richards said.

The professor also encouraged The Korea Herald’s CEO Kim Young-sang, another expert on the panel who referred to the company’s plan to expand global appreciation of Korean characters Hangeul, by saying that an increasing number of younger generations in America are learning Korean.