Amid rising global interest in South Korean pop culture, known as the Korean Wave or hallyu, the South Korean government will step up its efforts to keep this wave rolling, the culture ministry said Thursday.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said it will expand its budget for supporting hallyu from 1.7 billion won (1.5 million U.S. dollars) this year to 5.3 billion won next year.
The ministry's decision to increase the budget by more than three-fold to promote hallyu came as no surprise considering the growing popularity of South Korean culture, mainly driven by interest toward contemporary South Korean pop music known as K-Pop these days.
Earlier this month, a bunch of youngsters of different nationalities flocked to Seoul to participate in a global K-Pop event. Despite language and geography differences, they had one thing in common -- their love for K-Pop.
They were contestants who had made it to South Korea for the final round of the K-Pop World Festival, which took place on Dec. 7.
A total of 21 teams were selected through regional preliminaries that had been held at South Korea's overseas cultural centers in 16 countries over eight months since January this year.
A team made up of four Chinese students from Sichuan Conservatory of Music said it was their huge interest in South Korean culture, especially K-Pop, that had motivated them to participate in the event.
They had prepared for months for their performance of the song "Clap Your Hands" by the popular South Korean girl band 2NE1. "We often listen to K-Pop music and watch related videos online and thus learn Korean dances and songs. We also often do practices, and then lay out our own dances," said Wu Dan, a 22-year-old member of the Chinese group called WE: FIGHT.
The Korean Culture and Information Service (KOCIS) said it was in the mid-1990s that South Korean pop music first began gaining wider international attention under the name of the "Korean Wave," or "Hallyu."
In early stages, the wave was taking shape primarily in Asia, such as Chinese mainland, Taiwan and Vietnam.
It was the rapid growth of the video-sharing site YouTube and other social networking services (SNS) that enabled K-Pop to reach markets beyond East and Southeast Asia.
As the social media boom has helped people share music, photos, and videos internationally, the spread of K-Pop among those seeking something new and different has been accelerated.
Music videos of the country's famous bands such as Girls' Generation and Super Junior have generated tens of millions of views globally on YouTube.
Ko Jeong-min, a professor at Hongik University in Seoul and CEO of the Korea Creative Industry Research Institute, said some unique characteristics of K-Pop music, including a repetitive chorus with a synchronized group dance, have also contributed to the advancement of the K-Pop fever overseas.
"Many K-Pop songs are easy to listen to or to sing along with. They also allow people to dance together. I believe K-Pop has spread widely to overseas as it is something that can be enjoyed with group dances by many in Asia and Europe as well," said Ko.
Recently, YouTube launched an exclusive K-Pop music channel, reflecting the increasing presence of K-Pop in the global music scene.
It marked the first time YouTube opened a music channel fully dedicated to a single country's music, as it had previously divided the channels into pop, alternative, electronic, and other musical genres.
Ko said hallyu will not end up as a temporary trend but will continue to develop further, if provided with enhanced competitiveness and productivity of its contents.