How the Korean Government Made the Country Cool

Friday, August 08, 2014

K-Pop boy band, Big Bang (flickr/koreanet/flickr)

Whether you hate or love Gangam style, everybody knows what it is and where it's from. And that is no accident.

Korea has been planning its cultural dominance for nearly two decades since a debt crisis hit the Asian continent in 1997. The economic meltdown devastated a Korean economy too dependent on huge companies like Hyundai and Samsung, forcing them to look for a way to diversify, fast.

Euny Hong is the author of "The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture." She says that in these dark days of debt, Korea found its answer in a then revolutionary idea: the internet. 

The country built a super highway of fiber optic cables to become the most wired country in the world, laying the foundation for international commerce. With the technical advancement of the world wide web under its belt, Korea then turned to something a little less revolutionary to make them "cool" in the eyes of investors and an international audience.


Euny Hung

Produced by:

Allie Ferguson and Mythili Rao


Megan Quellhorst

Comments [3]

Larry Fisher from sadly back in Brooklyn

Modern Korean movies are off the hook. I don't even know where to begin. Insane is an accurate description. Google top crazy Korean Films and you'll begin to see what I mean

Aug. 08 2014 04:01 PM
LW from MN

This article made me a little sad. Now. when watching my drama or listening to kpop, instead of thinking "talented, beautiful person", do I think "government pawn"?

Aug. 08 2014 01:54 PM
Marcus Breen from Newton MA

Euny Hong said during her interview that no capitalist country does what South Korea has done in supporting the computer game industry with direct investment. This claim is wrong. Three quick points in response.

Everyone interested in this topic should be aware of the political economy lesson in the Role of Government section from Michael E Porter's 1985 book, The Competitive Advantage of Nations. Governments have largely determined successful industries. Indeed, the US Government determined the success of the computer industry by installing its IBM / Microsoft systems for public use in bureaucracies and giving US computer business preferences and subsidies. Larry Ellison's success with Oracle started with a massive CIA contract...

The European Union invests billions in support of industries. I am a member of the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) Action, Dynamics of Virtual Work Work.
The amount of EU money spent in support of industry is stunning and results from research such as this 5 year project.

Korea has a track record of direct government investment in digital technology. It invested heavily in high speed broadband Internet infrastructure in the 1990s becoming a model for many other nations.

I trust that helps...

Cheers - Marcus

Aug. 08 2014 12:35 PM

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