[CCFS] – Korean Wave has been flowing all over the world since Winter Sonata, the first-worldwide-booming-ever Korean melodrama, broadcasted all over the world around ten years ago. The story is not as simple as Hollywood films and the ending is not what has been expected by the viewers because even though it ends with the reunion of the main characters, the male character has to lose his sight due to his sickness. I believe that even though the story ends with not so happy ending, it has offered television viewers a different kind of soap operas. The success of this drama is then followed by other Korean dramas aired worldwide.
Talking about Korean Wave is not limited only about Korean dramas as there are some other forms of popular culture that become famed following the wave. One of the significant forms of pop culture is the emergence of boy and girl bands. These bands, I actually prefer to call them a group of singers for none of them plays any musical instrument, consist of a number of boys or girls who are able to sing and dance in their stage performances. This phenomenon is actually not new because in the 1990s there were some other vocal groups from the United Kingdom and the United States such as Spice Girls, Boyzone, Westlife, New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys and many more who also sing and dance at the same time in every stage performance they had. Yet, the influences of these western groups to Indonesian younger generation and pop culture were not as strong as those of the Koreans. The enthusiasm when Super Junior, one of the Korean vocal groups, came to Indonesia is one of the proofs to see the strength of the Korean Wave. In Indonesian pop culture, the phenomenon of Korean boy and girl bands has notably influenced the development of Indonesian music industries. We can everyday see that music television programmes are only occupied by the performances of Indonesian boy and girl bands. They do not only sing and dance the way those Korean bands do, but also dress the way they do.
Some questions come to my mind after becoming the viewers of Korean dramas and witnessing how Indonesian music industries have been much influenced by the phenomenon of Korean boy and girl bands. Do the dramas and bands really embody the indigenous culture of Korean people? Do Koreans just render fantasies to the viewers of their dramas and bands? These questions can only be discussed after reviewing some dramas I have seen in the past ten years and the stories behind the success of the Korean boy and girl bands.
Some historical Korean dramas conjure up the picture of how the culture and the country were developed. Dae Jang Geum, the story of the first female doctor in Korea, and Dong Yi, the drama about the mother of King Yeongjo, are two historical dramas representing the indigenous culture of Korean people in the Joseon era. From the dramas, viewers learn that Korea is an Asian country that is very rich in terms of the culture. It can be seen from some ceremonies, the food prepared for the kings, the Korean traditional clothes, and handmade crafts shown throughout the dramas. However, some modern dramas also show the reality Koreans have to deal with in their daily lives. A Gentleman’s Dignity, for example, presents some complicated problems have to be faced by men in their mid ages. The hard work they have to do for fulfilling their needs sometimes has to sacrifice their personal lives. It is the representation of the reality Koreans have to face. The most importantly, Korean dramas never leave the most important part of eastern culture: respecting parents, teachers and older people. Even though the dramas’ settings are in the contemporary Korea, they never forget to show the viewers how important it is to respect older people. Korean culture is well represented in that case.
Related to fantasies, Korean dramas sometimes show how very rich people live and it is of course far from realities. However, they try to balance with the fact that to be a rich person is not an easy work, it can only be achieved through dedication and hard work. Some Korean dramas such as Shining Inheritance and May Queen show how company owners have to work hard before becoming successful. What I am concerned is actually not with the fantasies shown in the dramas, but with the fantasies offered by the phenomenon of Korean boy and girl bands to Indonesian younger generation. The members of Korean boy and girl bands are physically perfect. It is because they are allowed to have plastic surgeries when they are eighteen years old and it is something normal for Koreans to have such kinds of surgeries. They have to also workout and follow a tight diet to have the perfect shapes. Something that is not easy to achieve and it is my biggest concern. I am worried that it will influence Indonesian younger generation’s ways of life. To be an instant artist, for example, or join an audition to be a new member of certain boy and girl bands is what those young people want. They want to be famous instantly. They want to reach the fantasies offered by the spotlight of the phenomenon of Korean pop music without realising that it needs a very hard work to achieve.
Korean wave has significantly offered something entertaining for its viewers. It also brings some influence that is capable of changing the previous and established industries. As viewers, however, we should be wise in responding to the phenomenon. What we can see beyond the dramas is in fact the culture of how Koreans live. For Indonesian young people, they have to be educated that to be like Korean artists is not an easy work. They have to be camped, trained, and work very hard to perform in a such perfect way on the stage. One more thing should be shown to Indonesian young people is the reality that Koreans are hard workers and very discipline, the cultures hard for us to be used to (WDP).